It’s a cold day in December, in a world we humans are all familiar with. One by one, we meet the five passengers that will be boarding the Starlight Special – a luxury, all expenses paid train trip through the Northern Wildlands. The first episode of Deborah Ann Woll’s new D&D actual play series Children of Éarte on Demiplane’s Twitch channel introduces the core characters we’ll be journeying with, but the vintage train ride we’ve embarked on already promises puzzles, questions, and mysteries.
Why are there only five passengers on the train? What draws these seemingly ordinary people to the Starlight Special? Who on Earth is paying for all of this? “As a DM, it excites me that [the players] are starting to see little clues and parts of the story”, Dungeon Master Deborah Ann Woll says in an exclusive post-game interview.
In terms of mechanics and character sheets, Children of Éarte plays its cards very close to its chest. The game’s puzzles don’t end with locked doors alone – figuring out the fantastic character classes and abilities hidden behind these seemingly human characters is also part of the mystery. However, Wargamer can provide additional quotes from the cast (not included in the original episode) that might just help you start piecing things together. Also, if you’re looking for the episode two review, it’s available now. Leaving us with curiosity and cliffhangers, episode one reminds us that – as Woll says – “life itself is the most wonderful fairytale”.
If you happen to be looking for a different episode of Children of Éarte, find them below in our episode review directory:
- Episode 2 – Whispers on the Wind
- Episode 3 – PRBLMs
- Episode 4 – Shivering Shadows
- Episode 5 – An Empty Train
- Episode 6 – Enough Blood
- Episode 7 – Campfire Mysteries
- Episode 8 – Magic Muscles
- Episode 9 – Icky Ichor
- Episode 10 – Blackest Night
We begin the episode by meeting Silas Jordan, who discovered his ticket for the Starlight Special amongst the items he inherited from his late grandfather. According to Silas’ player Adam Bradford, the middle-aged store owner and action figure collector’s “entire life is about what’s around the next corner”.
Sat not far away is Fairuza Armstrong, a highly-strung 26-year-old lawyer who, according to player Alicia Marie “lives her life very much by the book”, is out of her comfort zone by going on the trip at all. However, she was intrigued by a train ticket from the adoption social worker she hasn’t seen in 17 years.
Maeve Flynn is a young woman who sorts mail at a law firm by day, but she’s bound for the Northern Heritage Line by an unexpected gift from her best friend. Also on the platform is baker and college grad Carolyn Stern – also known as ‘Neb’ or ‘Nebula’, a nickname given by her beloved great great grandfather. It was he who sent her a ticket and encouraged her to “see the stars” – despite having been gone for years now.
First class: check out our D&D classes guide
Lastly, Robin Beckett is an 80-year-old in “ready for anything” yellow rainboots. Her late husband Harold bought tickets for the Starlight Special over a decade ago – but strangely, Robin’s ticket for the train is dated for this week. It seems each party member has been drawn to the Starlight Special by a lost loved one from their past.
Finally, the main mysterious NPC arrives. The train’s conductor Gloria meets the group on the platform, and everyone now realises they are the only five passengers boarding the train.
Discussing the parts of the session that brought them the most joy, it’s clear that getting to develop the characters in such depth was a real highlight for the Children of Éarte cast. “I got such a vivid mental picture of what everyone was about,” says Adam Bradford, “it was like the first episode of a TV show”.
Gloria gives the group a rundown of the trip’s itinerary – the Starlight Special travels at night, stopping each day at a different location on the Northern Heritage Line. Sightseeing opportunities include Twin Creek Mine, ghost town Hollowvale, whale watching in Blackwater Bay, the Bellecastle Cap glacier, and the undisturbed forests of the Farnshall Wilds.
After dining together, the passengers start to puzzle over the trip – and each other. Robin knew Neb over a decade ago, and she can’t help but feel she knows something about Silas too. Silas proves himself a cautious and suspicious man, who also rolls incredibly well on persuasion, stealth, and sleight of hand. While episode one of Children of Éarte is roleplay-heavy, we do learn that Maeve has a perception bonus of plus one and an investigation bonus of plus three.
“Getting a chance to be my character and interact with your characters was something I’d been waiting for for a very long time”, says Neb’s player Lauren Urban. Meanwhile, Maeve Flynn’s real-life counterpart Jennifer Kretchmer says that Maeve is “reinvigorated” by the colourful characters around her – and the chance to play some reality-TV-style pranks on the uptight Fairuza.
Finally, there’s the mysterious door to Room A, a dusty and uncared for room that Gloria claims cannot be opened by any key aboard the train. Neb is the only one that can hear the whispers coming from this strange door. Speaking as the character, Lauren Urban says “I would never have done anything with that door, but it’s neat to be with people who want to. I’ve never hung out with people who do things like that”.
The group waste no time investigating the mystery – and decide to break in. According to Hope LaVelle, her character Robin Beckett is ready for anything even without her yellow rainboots – “Robin is in her PJs, but she’s here for it”. “She’s almost getting a little flutter in her heart as they’re doing something they probably shouldn’t be doing.” Maeve uses her multitool to attempt to prise the door open, but the episode ends when the lock clicks – and the blade of Maeve’s knife snaps.
Stumbled across this episode review by mistake? Be sure to check out our initial announcement of Children of Éarte. Or, if you want to DM a game that rivals Deborah Ann Woll, you’ll need to have the best D&D 5E sourcebooks.
Update: This article’s directory of episodes was updated on May 18.