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I am running my first ever D&D 5e campaign for a completely new party using the Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure.

My party have just decided that they wish to go to Cragmaw hideout following the ambush and they - through a lot of struggle - managed to get the cart with them. After dealing with the goblins outside the cavern, they are now planning on going into the hideout but I believe they have forgotten about their cart. We had stopped the session at this point.

Now, since my players are all new and they have indeed forgotten about their cart, I do plan on prompting them to think about it. I suppose they could decide to just leave the cart outside, or to cover it up with the thickets but then what about the oxen? If they do leave it somewhere where it is obviously going to be seen then I would like there to be some consequence for this.

To the question then: what can I prompt my players - if anything - to do with the cart and oxen?

If they don't do something to stop the goblins from finding it, what is a reasonable thing for the goblins to do?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Sdjz, Akixkisu, NautArch, Oblivious Sage, Thomas Jacobs Jul 20 at 14:12

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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I question the wisdom of having goblins do something nasty to the party's wagon if they fail to explicitly defend it.

Consider what you're teaching your brand-new players with this approach. I think what you mean to teach them is:

The world is alive and active, and things will happen behind your back.

But what this is likely to actually teach them is:

The DM is my enemy, and will take away my stuff if I take my eyes off it for even a moment.

That style has been described as "DM vs Player" DMing style. You may be inadvertently pushing your group towards that style, which tends to result in a "search every square, spike every door, trust no one" play style, and that's just not fun for most players, especially new players who are still struggling to understand the system itself.

If they were leaving the oxen alone for a day or more, I could maybe see doing something like this, but how long does it really take to explore Cragmaw? Even if the party takes its time, it's a pretty small place and probably won't take more than an hour of in-game time to clear out, or maybe two if they take a short rest. It's not really long enough to justify a sneaky attack like this, and will likely make your players feel like the DM is being cruel.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah yes, that's kind of the actual point I'd wanted to make with my last paragraph but this is a way better answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 20 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ In my experience, DM's tend to use the first rationale to teach players that "this isn't a video game - you can't farm XP for weeks while the princess is being tortured". \$\endgroup\$ – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Jul 20 at 23:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RobertColumbia Why borrow trouble? If the players ARE actively ignoring the mission to go farm XP, maybe you want to remind them that time is passing. But if the PCs are doing what they're supposed to, why punish them? Just for the sake of Making A Point to the "filthy noobs"? For new players barely putting their toes into D&D for the first time, that kind of behavior sets a tone for not just your game, but D&D as a whole. It tells them "this is a game where the DM will screw you over given half a chance", and that's not the way to attract new fans. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jul 21 at 0:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah yeah I see what you're saying. Thanks for the advice and support, I agree that I might give my players the wrong idea by doing this. \$\endgroup\$ – C_Richmond Jul 21 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Excellent point. A compromise might be have some goblins sniffing around outside when they come out, or some animals scavenging things from the cart. If you do want to play more realistic warning them first is the sensible thing to do, but you don't want too much realism or "what to do with baggage" gets really boring \$\endgroup\$ – Jack V. Jul 23 at 8:27
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What goblins would enact the consequences you are imagining? The only ones described in the adventure are the ones inside and at the entrance of the hideout. Unless you've added a bunch more goblins nearby or the players leave their cart there for more than a day or so there shouldn't be any around to do anything to the cart. In any case, if there are more goblins near the hideout where else would they bring the cart to other than the goblin hideout they're already at?

If you want there to be more goblins that's fine, but the consequences you're imagining don't make a lot of sense for the adventure as written. I'd suggest that unless you've significantly changed the situation described in LMoP, there shouldn't be any consequences for neglecting the cart for a couple of hours. You can certainly prod your players a bit by asking what exactly they were doing with the cart, but that doesn't mean you must punish your players if they don't perform the precautions you expect.

Other things you could imagine happening would be "a random owlbear came along and ate your oxen" but there actually isn't anything they could've done to prevent that other than leaving people on guard duty (which'd be quite boring for those players and mess with the normal narrative flow of the game for an overall fairly minor detail).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I haven't significantly changed the adventure. However, I was hoping to achieve the living world feel by making something happen outside the scope of what the players are experiencing - such as a goblin patrol returning to the hideout part-way through the dungeon. Of course, I would take these goblins out of the cave so that I haven't actually added any more goblins. If you don't think that this makes sense then i'd like to know how a random owlbear stumbling across the cart and eating the oxen is any different. \$\endgroup\$ – C_Richmond Jul 20 at 10:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @C_Richmond I wasn't suggesting you should have an owlbear come along and eat their oxen. That was meant to be a deliberately terrible example of what not to do. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 20 at 12:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic it's the well-known D&D trope: an ownbear never makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 20 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic You need to make that a lot clearer in your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 20 at 17:21
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Taking the cart into the woods/brush would reduce the chances of goblins randomly finding it. The cart could be covered as you said and the oxen could then be unhitched from the cart and tied to a tree or stake. They could graze and potentially defend themselves if attacked.

If goblins did find them I think the 2 most likely outcomes are they get stolen or eaten.

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