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My party wanted to try a campaign book so we got the Lost Mine of Phandelver.

Problem is they are bloodthirsty idiots and all they care about is killing goblins for xp. This lead to them letting Sildar die so they could make sure no goblins escaped.

At this point they have just had the redbrand encounter in town.

At first I though "oh well they screwed themselves". Sildar is dead, they don't get the reward for rescuing him but the more I read the more he seems to appear in the story. It appears that he is a big part of the campaign and a lot of material is left out without him present.

Seems silly to me that so much of the book is skipped because of an early decision.

Basically I don't know if I should just accept I'm only getting 2/3 of a campaign or if everything he would have done should be shifted to another NPC. If I do this though it makes his death meaningless.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As an aside, did you let them know that rescuing prisoners is also worth XP? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5, 2017 at 9:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreenstoneWalker when they came across the horses they eldritch blasted them. They very much think its WOW and see everything as its XP/GP vlaue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Skeith
    Feb 6, 2017 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Skeith on that note, How do I get my PCs to not be a bunch of murderous cretins? \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Feb 7, 2017 at 3:47

4 Answers 4

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Failure is an option

A mistake that many people make is thinking there are only 2 end states for an adventure: the party wins or the party dies. In fact, there are a multitude of outcomes and some of them represent failure and failure has consequences.

Having Sildar die makes things much harder for the players in subsequent stages of the campaign. So, the way you play this out is: it makes it much harder for the players.

From memory, his absence doesn't make it impossible for the players to proceed, it just closes one avenue of information and support: the players will have to pursue other avenues or go without.

Further, the Lord's Alliance (I think) will send a new agent who will not trust the party and ostentatiously not give them quests, rewards or information and make it really clear that this is because they don't trust the party who let Sildar die.

RPGs are different from video games - you don't get to go back to your last save and try again.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree but Sildar isn't simply one source of information, he is responsible for at least 3 sidequests, the ability to join a faction, several hundred GP. \$\endgroup\$
    – Skeith
    Feb 5, 2017 at 0:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ And so, they have to find out the side quests another way or not do them, they can't join his faction and the don't get the money - failure has consequences \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Feb 5, 2017 at 0:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this could be improved by pointing out how the players could be made aware of the missed opportunities. They need to feel a Sildar-shaped hole in the world, or they won't know they missed anything outside the immediate quest reward. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5, 2017 at 1:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ This happens. Real world, friendly Afghan or Bosnian leaders have buried dozens of friends who got fragged in crossfires. Those who still want progress, and realize this happens in war zones. Likewise the NPCs must be genre-savvy to living in an inherently violent place, and it's not their first rodeo. They've lost good people before. They know about the fog of war and friendly fire. The objectives still need doing. Sildar's loss is felt but his dream lives. For Sildar! \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5, 2017 at 20:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt sure, if you want to double down on the boring. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Dec 29, 2023 at 9:40
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Let the party know the cost of failure

The first thing to do is to let the party know that there are consequences for their actions, beyond experience points for kills. If they simply don’t get the money and side-quests that Sildar might have provided, they won’t even know what they missed out on.

Go ahead and withhold the rewards, and have another NPC let the characters know that Sildar had access to considerable reward money — and useful information — which is now unavailable.

Make sure the party knows this is not a video game

Players these days sometimes treat NPC’s like they might in a video game. They show no concern for the NPC’s survival, because they assume a character important to the plot cannot die. Or they take an item from the NPC and don’t bother completing their quest in a timely manner.

You can inform the players, in game or out, that your NPC’s won’t stand for being treated like video game automatons. A Phandalin villager (maybe Sister Garaele) might chide the PC’s, “You treated Sildar like he wasn’t even a real person, like he was just there to provide a colorful detail to your big adventure. I don’t know what kind of game you think you are playing.”

Back that up with real consequences. One idea based on the literature is:

Linene refuses to sell the party weapons because she believes they are bloodthirsty mercenaries, no better than the Redbrands. To earn Linene’s trust, the party must “go the extra mile” — perhaps by retrieving Mirna’s jewelry from Thundertree.

The show must go on

On the other hand, there’s no need to write out parts of the adventure because things didn’t go as planned. Just find other NPC’s to move the story along. Here’s one an example how:

One party I ran through Phandelver took no interest in the dwarven brothers, and kept killing the bad guys without interrogating any. They dove into the side quests, but took no interest in the main quest. Knowing my audience, I made the necromancer at Old Owl Well a beautiful “Goth” woman with a sob story about learning necromancy at a school for orphans. Sure enough, they did not kill her, and invited her to join the party. I added to her backstory that she was seeking the Forge of Spells, and the party was “back on track.”

Sandbox vs. Prepared Adventures

If you were playing your own sandbox adventure, you might consider “skipping” part of the adventure, letting the bad guys win, and figuring out where your campaign goes from there.

But you seem concerned with getting your value out of the adventure you purchased. There’s nothing wrong with that. Especially if you are a new DM, this introductory module gives you a good framework and guidance, and saves you some work.

You just want to make sure you stop short of railroading your party into an adventure they don’t want.

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Flip the trope

There's a lot of good advice already here about teaching your players that actions have consequences and that they shouldn't treat NPC's (game term) like NPC's (pop culture term).

But I don't see that anyone has answered your question: "It appears that he is a big part of the campaign and a lot of material is left out without him present...should [I] just accept I'm only getting 2/3 of a campaign or if everything he would have done should be shifted to another NPC[?] If I do this though it makes his death meaningless."

Short answer - Townmaster Harbin Wester gives the quests

If saved, Sildar reveals the following quests:

(1) Find Cragmaw Castle and save Gundren Rockseeker.
Your players found the Cragmaw Hideout with the goblins. Presumably they know their employer is missing and was taken by goblins. Because they don't understand that NPC's have information, they didn't question the goblins before they killed them all and don't know where Gundren was taken. In town, Harbin can congratulate then on killing the goblins and explain that there are more where those came from - Cragmore Castle somewhere in the Neverwinter Woods. If he knows Gundren is missing, he can speculate that is where he was taken.

(2)Find Iarno Albrek.
Harbin doesn't know who Albrek is. But he knows that the Redbrands are messing with his town. He will explain to the party the problems they have been having and encourage them to do something. Once the party attacks the Redbrand Hideout they will find Iarno, although they won't realize the full importance of who he is (and this is a consequence of not having Sildar).

(3) Joining the Lords’ Alliance
Harbin can't reasonably give this. The party has missed out. Then again, Sildar was supposed to award this to "those who exemplify a desire for the security of civilization through action." It doesn't sound like anyone in your party would have received this even had Sildar lived. These faction affiliations are neither automatic nor necessary, and don't unlock content in the adventure.

Long Answer - Two Sides of A Coin

Phandalin is a classic Western frontier town. The people are brave and resourceful, but they value their independence and aren't interested in seeking help from the outside government. Thus, they are vulnerable to being exploited by local ruffians, in this case the Redbrands.

As written, Sildar Hallwinter and Harbin Wester are two sides of the same coin in this genre-setting, both representing a type of authority - with Sildar representing the distant but powerful Lord's Alliance, and Harbin the local but weak (limited resources) town government.

As written, Sildar is competent and brave and wants to bring the benefits of civilization to the town, while Harbin is an incompetent coward who allows the Redbrands to terrorize the townsfolk because to oppose them would be personally uncomfortable for him. As written, Sildar is the 'new Sheriff in town' or the 'US Marshall' who comes in and cleans up the bandits and dethrones the corrupt politician who was allowing the bandits (or the powerful local landowner) the run of the town. The party is supposed to be the heroes, so Sildar won't defeat the Redbrands himself, but he is supposed to guide them in rooting out the Redbrands, capturing Iarno and bringing him back to Neverwinter for a fair trial, and then giving them other quests. These quests culminate in the townsfolk recognizing that the peace and prosperity offered by the Lord's Alliance is desirable, and that setting aside their independence and paying taxes is a fair trade for this. Along the way, Harbin is, in contrast, supposed to be overly concerned about the repercussions of the PC's actions, wringing his hands in worry, and the party will enjoy seeing his hold over townsfolk diminishing.

But your party allowed Sildar to die, and you are looking for someone to award 'his' quests. So you need to flip the tropes. Sildar still represents the distant but powerful Lord's Alliance, and Harbin the local but weak town government, but now you want your party to be on Harbin's side. Sildar was secretly working for the uncaring Lord's Alliance, who think they know what is best for the hard-working people of this town, but they don't understand the local culture and aren't interested in understanding it. They just want to impose their authority to bring tax money back to the central government without providing any real benefits. Harbin, on the other hand, is the duly-elected and popular local leader who is rightfully skeptical of big gov'ment. He knows what is best for his people, which is why they elected him. He has reluctantly allowed the Redbrands in town, but only because he is concerned for the safety of his people and knows that he can't oppose the Redbrands, yet, without some innocents getting hurt. As soon as the party arrives, he begins to suss them out. If they show any competence, he will feed them what he knows about the Redbrands and enlist their aid in defending the town.

Iarno, for his part, was willing to surrender so long as his old companion Sildar was present. But Harbin he doesn't trust - he is likely to be hanged by the townsfolk if the party beats the Redbrands. So he will be much more aggressive, sending his men to ambush the party in town while they are sleeping, separated, or otherwise vulnerable. But if they survive and then bring the fight to his hideout, he will immediately flee and then be present to bolster the Black Spider in the final confrontation.

Eventually the Lord's Alliance will send another representative to find out what happened to Sildar. Gundren will feel personally betrayed that the man posing as a simple guard had a secret ulterior motive. Under the guidance of Harbin, the townsfolk will organize and become self-sufficient, rejecting the Lord's Alliance as Harbin uses the party to help the town. If he learns about the Forge of Spells, that will be a major negotiating point.

The competent version of Harbin won't send the party to wipe out the Orcs at Wyvern Tor. Before the arrival of the party, he shrewdly used the orcs to balance the power of King Groll and keep the town safe from raids, and tolerated the Redbrands because he knew they protected the town from the orcs and goblinoids. Once Harbin has directed the party in eliminating the threats of both Groll and Iarno, he won't need the orcs any more. He will let them know it is time to move on. If they don't take the hint, he might send the party to drive them off, but has no interest in wiping them out - they might be needed later as part of a plan to keep the town independent of the Alliance.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have played this adventure as a DM and then as a player and not once did I realise it was a play on that trope. Sucks to me me apparently. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Dec 29, 2023 at 19:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri To be fair, while I have thought about and elaborated on this theme, I may have been inspired to see the connections at the start by watching the LMoP video series by Matthew Perkins. For example, here \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Dec 30, 2023 at 1:06
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It's a game and they're having fun playing so let them. It's a store bought module so if they skip or miss a third is that a big deal?

It doesn't matter if you replace him or not. To bloodthirsty idiots he's only there for exposition and plot advancement. They won't care about missed side plots and extra gold because that's an infinite resource you can buy or download.

Their only limit is how much time they actually play the game IRL.

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