Spoilers! Careful, there are spoilers ahead. If you are playing the adventure Lost Mine of Phandelver or ever plan to in the future, please stop reading now.

Hello everyone,

This is a question related to my previous question.

I'm DM'ing the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure. We've just arrived at the Hideout

beneath Tresendar Manor, belonging to the Redbrands

And there is another point that is not explained in the book.

In Area 4

There are several skeletons. They will 'Attack unless that person is wearing a red cloak or speaks the password Illefarn'. Nowhere in the adventure does it detail where PC's can learn the codeword though. How are PC's supposed to know this?

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ You're making the assumption this is intended for the PCs, as opposed to just being an RP explanation of why this doesn't cause problems for the regular denizens. \$\endgroup\$
    – bwarner
    Apr 8, 2016 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/6358/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 8, 2016 at 14:01

2 Answers 2


Spoilers ahead:

The most information we can get from the book can be found in the General Features section of the hideout description, in the box titled "What the Redbrands know" (page 20):

The Redbrands have a handful of captives in a holding area "near the old crypts," which are guarded by skeletons (see areas 4 and 5).

This only tells us that the Redbrands are aware of the skeletons (it's their trap after all). However, it is likely that at least some of the Redbrands would know the command word as well, as the trap is positioned right in front of their prison, and the skeletons might otherwise interfere with prisoner transfer.

If this doesn't seem likely to you, there is at least one person in the hideout that is expected to know such things: Glasstaff himself. Though it is not strictly specified in the book, it is very likely that he's the one who set up the whole trap, and thus would know the codeword.

As for how could your PC-s find this out? Interrogation, persuasion, magical effects, and others. While getting information that you don't ask for in an interrogation seems unlikely, a particularly successful one could yield it. For instance, if your PC rolled an Intimidation check while interrogating and got a very high score, an NPC might be so scared that he starts spewing out everything he knows (possibly pissing his pants at the same time). Or a well worded Suggestion ("Lead us safely through the hideout") spell might prompt an NPC to divulge such secrets. It's even possible to make allies out of enemies, and an ally would be incentivized to keep his new friends safe from skeletons.

As a side note: the adventure book you're using is not a rulebook. It is merely a suggestion on how to play the adventure the way the author imagined it. DM's are allowed (and required, imho) to adapt the adventure according to how the campaign is going.

Sticking to the book is handy for new DM's that are still struggling with all their other responsibilities and don't want to add adaptive storytelling to the list. But the book was not meant to be a cook book, so there are naturally some holes in the text that the DM is required to fill in. This is also good practice, as modifying the initial script in reaction to PC's actions usually leads to a much more enjoyable campaign than just going by the book.

In short:

The PC's might not enter the skeleton room at all, at which point the keyword is irrelevant. It is also irrelevant in case the players stumble upon the room before gathering any information. But it's good for a DM to know it exists so he can throw it in at any point in the game where it would make the game more enjoyable (as a reward for a high roll, or even as a new plot point that enriches the original adventure).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the answer, and the reason I asked it is because 'Illefarn' is a word that would appear to have a hidden meaning. Being a bandit gang, they might as well make it 'Gl4zzT4ffRulezz', but they chose a strange, elven-looking word instead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Davy
    Apr 8, 2016 at 9:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I found that detail to be peculiar, too :) Then again, a name of an ancient elven civilization is not something that would cross one's mind in a bind (i.e. being attacked by skeletons) and thus is well suited for a secret keyword. The added flavor could also be there to encourage building an additional story on it. Maybe Glasstaff bought the skeletons and they came with the keyword. Investigating where they came from could open up a whole new section of the campaign, or could somehow tie in with the rest of the existing adventure. \$\endgroup\$
    – DaFluid
    Apr 8, 2016 at 9:32
  • 12
    \$\begingroup\$ I suspect it's not the elvish kingdom meaning, but an "Easter egg" for the very first published Forgotten Realms module [Under Illefarn] (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_Illefarn) where it's the name of some dwarven mines. Mines, get it? Mines? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 8, 2016 at 14:05

Not so much with the Starter Set but there have been many criticisms of the D&D 5e modules such as The Hoard of the Dragon Queen because they don't tell you EVERYTHING that the players should know and/or hold your hand throughout the entire scenerios. IMO and as an answer to your question the information in the module handbooks are guidelines and fodder for you to build on and make your own style of adventure using the module framework. As the DM, you can decide when/where or if they learn the secret code-word etc.

As an example:

You can be creative when using the information provided such as the secret word or when they activate. When I ran this as a DM, my group found the barracks and defeated the inhabitants. On their own (with no suggestion from me) all but one person decided to grab the red cloaks that were hanging on the bed posts. When they entered the skeleton room nothing happened until that last player (without the cloak) entered. It made for a good surprise round and an "a ha!" moment for the party.


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