Ashton Duncan

I love Lost Mine of Phandelver. It’s the first thing I successfully DMed in fifth edition, and it’s the basis—however wildly interpreted—for The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins, my favorite arc in the popular podcast by Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy from My Brother, My Brother and Me and their dad Clint McElroy. I love that its title is the Mandela Effect of TTRPGs: are there two lost mines or just one? Maybe there’s one officially lost mine, but the other (hence “Lost Mines of Phandelver”) is just like super lost.

I’m not alone in loving this setting and story. Lost Mine of Phandelver is many a player and DM’s entry point into Dungeons & Dragons. It has what so many people want from their first D&D game: it has both a dragon and dungeons, it includes a slimmed-down ruleset, and there’s pre-generated characters to get started with.

Lost Mine is set just off the High Road on the Sword Coast, south of Neverwinter (though Thundertree is just upriver) and north of Waterdeep. In D&D terms, it’s smack dab in the middle of everything fifth edition: Storm King’s Thunder and Princes of the Apocalypse start to the east, Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is in the south, and Dragon of Icespire Peak from the Essentials Kit is in the Sword Mountains outside Phandalin. You’re in the geographical midst of many more adventures to come but nestled in a play area that has all of the classics at hand: a ruined castle, a mysterious abandoned town, and even a “tor”—and what is high fantasy without a geographical feature you have to Google? But Phandalin, the simple town and people the adventure is built around, is what makes Lost Mine of Phandelver worth playing.

Major spoilers start here!

A Guide to the Folks of Phandalin

Phandalin is a busting town built on the ruins of a previous, much larger, human settlement allied with the dwarves and gnomes of the Phandelver’s Pact. Settlers from the large nearby cities of Neverwinter and Waterdeep have recently reclaimed the ruins and built simple log buildings surrounded by crumbling stone ruins. There’s a single cart track into town, which widens into a muddy main street uphill toward the ruined Tresendar Manor, currently occupied by the Redbrands, the gang controlling Phandalin and led by Glasstaff.

Once the players are in the village, Lost Mine of Phandelver encourages the DM to ask a question like, “There’s an inn, a town hall, a shrine, general stores and trading posts, and a few other homes and businesses. Where do you want to go?” If you’re a new DM, that can be an intimidating question to ask—what if they go want to go somewhere you haven’t prepared? Luckily, most locations have at least one NPC and an adventure prompt or rumor included.

Here’s the chart I wish I’d had when running Lost Mine of Phandelver for the first time in roughly chronological order of when it makes sense for most parties to visit during the day:



Adventure Progress (reward)

Barthen’s Provisions

Elmar Barthen (owner, he/him) and Ander and Thistle (clerks)

End: “Meet Me in Phandalin” adventure hook (10 gp to each character)

Rumor: “Redbrand Ruffians” Redbrands are hurting local business; they’re at the Sleeping Giant tap house

Stonehill Inn

Toblen Stonehill (innkeeper), Narth (old farmer), Elsa (barmaid), Lanar (miner), Trilena (Toblen’s wife), Pip (Toblen’s son), and Freda (weaver)

Rumor: “Redbrand Ruffians” Redbrands are hurting local business; they’re at the Sleeping Giant tap house. Redbrands leave Phandalin Miner’s Exchange alone because of Halia Thornton.

Rumor: “Banshee’s Bargain” Sister Garaele at Shrine of Luck exhausted after return from forest

Rumor: “Old Owl Trouble” Daran Edermath at Edermath Orchard a former adventurer

Rumor: “Orc Trouble” Orc raiders at the east end of Triboar Trail (see Harbin Wester at Townmaster’s Hall)

Lead: “Redbrand Hideout” Quelline Alderleaf’s son at Alderleaf Farm found a secret tunnel in the woods, but Redbrands almost caught him

Sleeping Giant Tap House (see “Redbrand Ruffians”)

Grista (operator), Redbrand ruffians

End: “Redbrand Ruffians” 

Lead: “Redbrand Hideout” fleeing Redbrand ruffian from above encounter runs toward Tresendar Manor.

Redbrand ruffian knowledge:

Lead: “Finding Iarno” The leader of the Redbrands is a human wizard named Glasstaff. His chambers are in the western end of the stronghold (areas 11 and 12 Redbrand Hideout)

Lead: “Redbrand Hideout” The lower part of the Redbrand complex is guarded by a hideous “eye monster,” and there are a handful of captives near the old crypts guarded by skeletons (areas 4 and 5).

Lead: “The Spider’s Web” (main story) the Black Spider has hired the Redbrands to frighten off adventures and intimidate locals. Bugbears reinforce the Redbrands. 

Townmaster’s Hall

Harbin Wester (townmaster), Sildar Hallwinter (Lords’ Alliance agent) if rescued

Start/End: “Orc Trouble” band of orcs at Wyvern Tor (100 gp)

If Sildar is present:

Lead: “The Spider’s Web” (main story) find the lost mine of Wave Echo Cave and help the Rockseeker brothers put it back into production

Start/End: “Finding Cragmaw Castle” locate Cragmaw Castle and defeat or drive off tribe’s chieftain (500 gp)

Start/End: “Finding Iarno” Iarno Albrek is a missing member of the Lord’s Alliance; find him (he’s Glasstaff). Finding, reporting, capture, and transport or Iarno’s death (200 gp)

Start: “Joining the Lord’s Alliance” after either “Finding Cragmaw Castle” or “Finding Iarno”

Shrine of Luck

Sister Garaele (cleric of Tymora, Harpers)

Start/End: “Banshee’s Bargain” bring Agatha the hag a gift and persuade her to tell the location of Bowgentle’s spellbook (3 potions of healing)

Start: “Joining the Harpers” after Banshee’s Bargain

Lionshield Coster

Linene Graywind

Start/End: “Recovered Goods” return missing shipment attacked by goblins found in area 8 of Cragmaw hideout (50 gp)

Rumor: “Redbrand Ruffians” Redbrands are hurting local business; they’re at the Sleeping Giant tap house

Phandalin Miner’s Exchange

Halia Thornton (Zhentarim)

Start/End: “Halia’s Job Offer” eliminate Redbrand leader Glasstaff (100 gp)

Lead: “Finding Cragmaw Castle” Redbrands have a goblin working with them who might know the location

Alderleaf Farm

Qelline Alderleaf (halfling farmer), Carp (Qelline’s son)

Lead: “Redbrand Hideout” Carp knows of a tunnel under Tresendar Manor leading to area 8 of the Redbrand hideout

Lead: “Reidoth the Druid” has a lot of local knowledge, recently set out for Thundertree

Edermath Orchard

Daran Edermath (retired adventurer, Order of the Gauntlet)

Lead: “Old Owl Trouble” someone is digging in the ruins, deal with undead

Start: “Joining the Order of the Gauntlet”




That’s the town. Above Phandalin, Tresendar Manor is in ruins, which the Redbrands have made their hideout. Because of “Redbrand Ruffians,” the Redbrands will eventually try to intimidate the party, even if the player characters have stayed out of the conflict. Eventually, everything leads to Tresendar Manor.

I love how each of these characters and their stories are interwoven, and player characters have a reason to get invested in the success of this small community. In my own game Sildar Hallwinter, Pip, and Droop were party favorites. The smithy and the woodworker are both on the map but do not have any information provided. A gnome and a half-orc couple ran the smithy in my game, and the woodworker had a crush on Sister Garaele so she carved increasingly elaborate things for the Shrine of Luck to see her more. Several of the characters (Daran Edermath, Halia Thornton, Sildar Hallwinter, Sister Garaele, and Reidoth the Druid) offer paths into the faction system, which can be a great way to get new roleplayers to understand their characters’ motivations and drive actions taken out of combat.

Phandalin is the doorstep to many more adventures, so I hope you have fun playing whether you’re new or returning to the Forgotten Realms!

A Note on Content

While I love Lost Mine of Phandelver, it also has some things fantasy could do without. Phandalin was destroyed long ago, along with Wave Echo Cave, by an orc horde. Wyvern Tor has scouts from the Many Arrows tribe who “often roam into the more civilized areas of the North, spying out human settlements, waylaying travelers, and looting and plundering as opportunities present themselves,” and their leader is “a savage brute who is more interested in murdering and looting than scouting.” Note that the experience points awarded are for “dealing with” the orcs and the ogre, so while new D&D players and parties might feel like they have to solve every problem with violence (and the text certainly encourages this), the player characters could simply negotiate with them.

The goblinoids in Cragmaw Hideout are largely nameless enemies, and the bugbears at the Redbrand Hideout insult and demean their goblin slave. Nezzar the Black Spider is a drow whose race is described a “devious” and “scheming.” If you are a new DM, know that you do not have to stick to the text, and you can absolutely remove anything you and/or your players wouldn’t have fun playing. It’s a great idea to talk about this before starting play and implementing tools like Lines and Veils or the Safety Deck available in every Roll20 game to ensure everyone’s having fun.