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I'm DM'ing for the first time with a group playing for the first time (Table of Noobs). In the 1st chapter of Lost Mine of Phandelver, the characters come across dead horses, are attacked by goblins, and discover a path into the woods. The campaign book says they "can easily steer the wagon away from the road and tie off the oxen while the group pursues the goblins". This, to me, implied that the wagon couldn't go down the path.

Fast forward a bit, at the end of the path is a cavern/goblin hideout, PC's enter, kill goblins and bugbear leader (Klarg), yada yada yada. In Klarg's lair, there are a bunch of supply crates, and the description says "the captured stores are bulky, and the characters will need a wagon to transport them". They have a wagon, but apparently no way to get it to the cave.

The trail is 5 miles long, so carrying the crates back to the wagon is out. My solution was to retroactively say that when they entered the clearing where the cave is, they could see another, wider path leaving the clearing that has clearly been used for moving vehicles/supplies. This was met with dissent, as it was deemed "railroading" the story and not letting them discover a way themselves.

  • The dissent was from a player. Granted, there is more backstory to the reason it was questioned (one player keeps doing things on his own/making decisions on his own, and I "reinforced this behavior" by giving him an out with the path. There's also a bit more chance for argument than normal as the PC's are wife and kids :).

So finally, the related question in dealing with this problem:
Is this actually a plot hole, or have I missed something?


Another question related to my handling of this has been asked here:
Is it okay to retroactively change things when running a published adventure?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! I made a minor edit to your question, feel free to call me out on it, edit it further or revert it if you'd prefer. As a minor point: was the dissent from your players or others you have asked about this? Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jul 14 at 14:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Based on the way you've worded the question, you seem aware that the problem may well stem from your assumption that simply saying parking is possible implies that a vehicle cannot pass -- are you really asking if it's a plot hole, or are you looking for tips on how to handle needing to retcon a situation as a DM? \$\endgroup\$ – A C Jul 15 at 5:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Both actually... originally there were 3 questions, it was suggested I split off one, so I did, then someone removed the other 2 questions. The Edit History will show the original questions :) \$\endgroup\$ – Keven M Jul 15 at 11:51
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There is no time pressure

It is expected that at this point of the adventure the characters have eliminated the threats of the Cragmaw Hideout. They have defeated Klarg, and in doing so either eliminated the last of the threats there or demonstrated to any remaining goblins watching that the characters are not to be messed with, as their (unpopular) leader was just eliminated.

As such, the 5 mile trip down the trail is not really a big issue.

Anytime there is a significant lack of time pressure, and no difficulty in the task, you as the GM are free to hand wave events. I think having the characters find a second path is fine. Equally so, just saying they took the horses down the path, loaded them up, and after a few trips back and forth they managed to get all the supplies down to the wagon.

Or, just do like my group did and not worry about the details at all.

Keep the story moving to the interesting problems

The reason it seems like it is a plot hole is because the designers didn't see anything interesting in a challenge of how to get the supplies out.

They did rely on you, as the GM, to come up with some explanation if any players cared enough, but I believe they also figured the players would be happy to not micromanage their exact behavior.

So, that is the lesson I would take for both a new GM and new players: Don't micromanage how uninteresting things work, when there is no time pressure and no (ability or skill) related challenge to stand in their way.

If the players make a problem interesting, roll (or role) with it

If the players are micromanaging things, and are having fun doing so, then by all means let them have their fun.

Sometimes it is best as GM to not worry about "plot hole" like problems, and just see how the players react. If they bring up the issue, and are having fun and discussing it among themselves on what to do, let them solve their invented problem.

Perhaps they will come up with the idea of carrying the supplies down the path, in multiple trips. You can just hand wave the passage of time, instead of the actions themselves.

Or if any are looking around outside, have them roll perception and notice another path.

At the end of the day, focus on the fun. If something is uninteresting to everyone, follow my advice above and move past it.

If the players are having fun with something you originally thought would be uninteresting, then just roll with it, perhaps by throwing in some constitution checks for carrying so much, or a skill check where someone can add their land vehicle proficiency to navigating the path with the wagon (if they fail, just say they get stuck, and have to do some more (easy) checks to get out), or whatever is appropriate. Or role with it, and detail in interesting terms how the players accomplish the goal.

As long as you are having fun too (which the GM should always be having fun, as much as the players), then do whatever helps everyone have the most fun.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, there have been numerous micromanagement incidents already: Capturing and keeping a goblin, wanting to capture and keep a wolf, will Yeemak be upset that the supplies/loot is gone, etc. They're seriously over-thinking a lot of this, but not sure how to tone that down. \$\endgroup\$ – Keven M Jul 14 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KevenM Are they having fun with their over-thought incidents? \$\endgroup\$ – Willem Renzema Jul 14 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ They seem to, they're just taking it part of the game they need to address. \$\endgroup\$ – Keven M Jul 14 at 14:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KevenM mybe your players don't know they have a choice in how to play the game. - Maybe next time you could be more explicitly advocating the second option like this: "Ok Group, if you want we can skip the next few days, because I have nothing really interesting planned for transporting this stuff to the city. We have limited time for our meetings and it's your choice if you want to play out the 3 days travel or just continue with the mysterious murder in the city." \$\endgroup\$ – Falco Jul 15 at 10:17
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This, to me, implied that the wagon couldn't go down the path.

The module doesn't expressly say the path is too narrow/untraversable for the wagon. However, there's a few reasons why it might be bad for the adventurers to take their wagon down this path:

  1. The adventurers [should] expect more Goblin ambushes on their approach to the hideout; it might be difficult to fight back from on a wagon
  2. The traps along the trail to the hideout (especially the pit trap) could prove far more problematic if the Wagon gets caught in them (see the section labeled "Goblin Trail")
  3. for the traps that wouldn't affect the wagon, taking the wagon along with them might elide the adventurers dealing with them, and since this first part of the module is expressly designed to teach the basic mechanics of the game to newer players, skipping those mechanics might be bad for the players.

So there's no physical restriction on the wagon (that I am able to find in the module), but there are reasons why the players would want to approach the cave without taking the wagon. However, once they've completed their tasks in the cave, there's no restriction against them bringing the wagon closer to the cave once they've seen the area and are familiar with the layout.

Personally, as DM, I know for a fact that when leaving the cave, the question of moving the supplies from the cave to the wagon is pretty often elided. Once the players have successfully rescued Sildar, it's usually at a point where you're announcing level ups and providing for the PCs to take a long rest, so it's a hassle to also track with precision how they move the supplies from the cave to the wagon. So even if there were a physical restriction on moving the supplies back to the wagon, it's not something the DM/players will spend a lot of time thinking about, and it's one of the generally acceptable "parts of the game we don't need to simulate".

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I initially figured it would be ignored as well, but the players were concerned over it, and I hate giving the answer that "it just works because it does". I figured that if they wanted to worry about it, it's their game, I'm just the storyteller/monster & NPC controller. \$\endgroup\$ – Keven M Jul 14 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reason 4. (or even 0.) If you've just been attacked by goblins, you're not going to "pursue" them by lumbering along in an oxen-drawn wagon. You're going to run after them on foot. (From this page the consensus seems to be oxen-drawn wagons travel at around 2-3 mph). \$\endgroup\$ – TripeHound Jul 15 at 8:25
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According to the module, the wagon is "packed full of an assortment of mining supplies and food...." So, even if your players brought the wagon to the Cragmaw Hideout, where/how would they find room in the wagon for the "bulky" Lionshield Coster crates? They'd first have to deliver the wagon supplies to Barthen's Provisions, have the wagon unloaded, then return to the Hideout with an empty wagon. I'm sure Linene Graywind at the Lionshield Coster would pay handsomely for the return of her supplies.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Many times (in real life) have I fit considerably more stuff into a vehicle that most would describe as "packed full". \$\endgroup\$ – Nuclear Wang Sep 17 at 21:02

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