D&D Children of Éarte episode 5 review – An Empty Train

While this episode of the D&D Twitch series left players “heartbroken”, DM Deborah Ann Woll relished the “permission to backstory”.

DnD Children of Earte episode 5 - cast headshots and Silas and Fairuza character illustrations

This week in the world of Dungeons and Dragons actual play Children of Éarte, panic and perception rule the day. Under the guidance of Dungeon Master Deborah Ann Woll, the party shares many emotional breakthroughs – and some breakfast to boot.

If you’ve been following the series, you may remember the turmoil of Children of Éarte episode four, where the players battled the strange, shadowy creature that trapped them in Room A. Rest and recovery did little to dissipate the mystery, however, as figures lurk in the darkness outside of the train, and the train’s staff appear to the party as hazy, flickering figures. Boulders block the path of the train, and the party are unable to reach the ghostly train crew.

You can find a fuller recap of last week’s episode in our Children of Éarte directory below, and you can always watch more Éarte over on Demiplane’s Twitch channel and YouTube channel. But if you’re ready to set off for the story’s next destination – and to check out the exclusive post-game interview with the Éarte cast – then carry on along these tracks.

Here’s the Children of Éarte episode review directory:

DnD Children of Earte episode recap - characters on train platform

Passengers on a Ghost Train

The episode begins with the party standing outside of the Starlight Special, watching ghostly figures flicker in and out of existence around the boulders blocking the tracks. It’s no wonder, then, that Robin Beckett (played by Hope LaVelle) wonders if they might be dead.

She delves further into fear and grief when she follows a sobbing sound to the engine room – where she finds a ghostly woman weeping over the equally foggy figure of a man in engineer’s overalls. The sight proves too much for her, and she moves on with a few tears and no word to her fellow passengers about what she saw. Despite her character not witnessing the scene, Lauren Urban (playing Nebula) told Wargamer she was “heartbroken” as a player watching an NPC die, and Jennifer Kretchmer (playing Maeve Flynn) echoed her sentiment – “it was heartbreaking and really beautiful”.

The party begins to look for a safe place to rest. Maeve remembers from the documents that she previously picked up that one of the train cars was silver-plated, and Neb crawls under the train to try and spot it. After all, if silver is good against werewolves, maybe it’ll give them some extra supernatural protection, right? Maeve also asks the party about Steam’n’surger Specialty Builders, who turn out to be a once-prosperous construction company with a stake in the Starlight Special.

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The party end up choosing the dining car as home base. Robin rests, but she hears panicked breathing in her fitful dreams. Silas Jordan (Adam Bradford) reinforces the dining car with noise-making traps, while Fairuza Armstrong (Alicia Marie) and Neb go searching for powder to scatter on the floor. They come back with arms full of flour and sugar – as well as knives and meat tenderizers for, you know, protection.

We meet more and more ghosts as the passengers explore the train. Two of the staff, Charlie and Alexander, are seen crying and hugging in their living quarters, while Silas sees Augie crash into the cans he’s strung up as traps and scream. Jennifer Kretchmer describes this episode in the post-game interview as the point where she and her character Maeve realise “we are alone – alone enough that we can’t trust anything around us and have to start figuring things out on our own – which is terrifying and delightful”.

Maeve, in particular, finds even more interesting objects while investigating – she gets a good look at Gloria’s pocket watch, some old Playboy magazines, and the train’s timetable. If the Starlight Special were on schedule, they’d soon be arriving at its first excursion, the Twin Creek Mine. She and Silas leave the train conductor Gloria a note explaining their situation, and everyone huddles in the dining car for a long rest.

DnD Children of Earte episode recap - Northland Heritage Line Map

Awakening

The party awakes around noon to find a slight disturbance in the powder they left out to trace footprints. They also find their note to Gloria on her desk – crumpled and burned. Most of the train’s personal belongings (as well as tents and snowshoes) are missing, and some particularly high rolls from Neb and Fairuza deduce that the train staff have fled back to Gravelhurst Station out of fear.

DM Deborah Ann Woll told Wargamer she had particular fun in this part of the episode, as she got “permission to backstory” from the party’s high Intelligence rolls. “It’s fun to be secretive, but this was the moment to transition from the NPCs being in charge to the PCs being in charge.”

"Fairuza always finishes what she started"

Realising they can’t remain on a stationary train, everyone starts preparing for a long journey – there are still miles to walk to reach the mine. Silas, who exclusively packed shorts, gets Robin to fashion him some more weather-appropriate trousers, while Maeve sneakily returns the makeup case she stole from him (which turned out, in the end, to be full of cosplay gear). Returning to the mirror, Neb sees that many of the messages left by the ghostly Ivy have begun to fade in the daylight.

Neb uses her helpful background in baking to prepare breakfast, and the party come up with a game plan. Twin Creek Mine might have the first shard they need to repair the mirror and free Ivy, or at the very least, it’ll have equipment that can help them clear the rocks from the train tracks. It seems there’s little choice but to go forwards on foot.

In the post-game interview, Alicia Marie told Wargamer that this had been something of a turning point for Fairuza. “In her head, she realised we are on a mission, some sort of trajectory”, she said. “I [Fairuza] know deep down inside, I have to finish what I started. Fairuza always finishes what she’s started.”

Update: The episode directory was updated May 18.