Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pathfinder RPG - Session 3: The Festival of Sarenrae

Last Monday evening, I came home to a very bizarre experience. The kids had finished their weekly homework and were excited to play Pathfinder.

"But homework isn't due till Friday!" I said somewhat surprised.
"Yeah, but we did it all this afternoon, so can we pleeeease play RPG!?"

What more was there to do but to eat dinner and get ready for Session 3.


"Gaffi brings you all back to Sandpoint, and he thanks you both again for saving them from that angry Earth Elemtental. 'We don't have much, but here's something I want you to have.' He passes you a gold ring. You can see a slight glow of magic on it. 'We found it some days ago in an old cave, and it's obviously magical, but I think you'll find more use for it than Bilbi or me.'"

"Cool!" says Evan. "I'll put it on!"

"Uh, I don't think that's a good idea," says Jojo. "It might be an evil ring, like in the Hobbit or something. I think we should just sell it."

"Well, it's usually a good idea to find out what it is first before you sell it," I suggest. "I mean, someone might buy it from you for 10 gold, and then later find out that the ring is worth 1000 gold, and you'll lose out."

"Well, I'm putting it on," insists Evan.

I nod. "Okay, Sharpblade puts on the ring, and there's a slight magical tingle, and nothing else. You don't feel any different. Maybe you should find someone to help you identify what this ring is."

By now the answer was obvious. The kids go off and visit Fastidus who examines the ring under a large magnifying glass that is attached to his cellar table by some hinged contraption. "There seems to be some tiny writing just there," mutters the wizard. He puts on a pair of glasses with multiple lenses over one side. "It's a tiny rune that says... 'Jump'."

Sharpblade puts the ring back on. "Hmm.. I'll jump." He jumps... and makes a spectacular hole in the cellar ceiling when the Ring of Jumping activates and launches him 10 feet up. I inform the kids that the ring is worth about 2500 gold, and the kids argue a bit about whether they should keep it or sell it, but in the end, they decide to sell it and split the gold as it was the fairer option.

Not a bad little item!
 After updating their character sheets with their newly gained wealth, the kids decide to stay the night over at Fastidus's house. Jojo's elven rogue rests cross-legged on a floor rug, while Evan attempts unsuccessfully to convert his skeleton into a bed. Fastidus lounges on a large, rug-covered chair with his staff leaning against it, which apparently is where he normally sleeps. We all agree that this must be very bad for his back.

Jojo tells with Fastidus all about the earth elemental she befriended in the last session. "And after I washed out its eye, I was like,'Friends?' with my hand out, and it went 'Huh!' and just sank straight into the ground! And I was like, 'Um.. I think that went well!' I wish I could talk to it, and other nature creatures."

Fastidus nods sleepily. "I heard about someone out in the forest who can do that. He can speak to animals and stuff. Maybe he can teach you how to do that." He drifts off to sleep before Jojo can ask him more.

The next morning, they can hear sounds of a crowd outside. Jojo goes to open the door and peer out while Evan checks to see if Fastidus is still asleep. "He's asleep? Good! I'm going to take his staff and..."

Jojo opens the door and the noise wakes Fastidus up. "Eh? Oh, good morning Sharpblade! You got my staff? Thanks! What's all that racket?" They look outside and see people chattering loudly as they make their way up the street towards the Sandpoint Cathedral. "Oh, I forgot about that," yawns Fastidus. "It's the Festival of Sarenrae the Sun goddess today. It's an off day so all the shops are closed. But there's a lot of things to see at the Festival."

Sarenrae the Sun Goddess
Soon, the kids are following the crowd to a large area in front of the cathedral. "There's people everywhere, and stalls selling food and trinkets. There's a crowd watching a group of dwarves parading around a long, metal dragon on poles. You overhear someone saying that the dragons on parade are to celebrate the time when the followers of Sarenrae defeated a horde of evil dragons in an epic battle. At the end of the day, the fake dragons will be destroyed as part of the ceremony."

"In fact," I muse. "There's even a contest at the end of the day to determine which is the best fake dragon. The winning team gets 1000 gold."

While the kids ponder this, they see another group, this time a group of elves, all raising their arms to cast an illusionary dragon in the air above them. Their dragon is all beauty and colour, graceful and animated.

"Elves? Yay! I know whose team I'm joining!" declares Jojo, and she goes off to join the elves. I remind her that she can't cast spells herself, but she insists on joining in with the arm-raising alongside the other elves.

"Meanwhile, Evan, you see another large crowd down by the bay. As you go closer, you see a strange event - a long wooden platform is floating out in the bay, and there are two fighters on the platform. A wizard standing on the water like it was solid ground raises his hands and announces "Begin!", and the two fighters close in on each other with their weapons. You can see that the fighters are both protected by some sort of shimmering magic field which sparks every time their weapons clash against it. Soon, one of the fighters is knocked off the platform and splashes into the water amidst cheers from the crowd. You hear someone say that this is a contest, with the prize being 1000 gold!"

The smile on Evan's face is the definition of delight. "I'm joining this contest! I call out to the wizard on the water, 'Hey, fatso! I'm joining in!'"

"That's rude," says Jojo. "And the wizard's not fat!"

"Actually, he is," I improvise. "He's probably the fattest wizard you've seen wearing robes and boots standing on the water." The kids laugh.

Thankfully, the fat wizard doesn't appear to hear Sharpblade, and someone helps Sharpblade sign up for the contest. Meanwhile, Jojo is still parading around with the elves when one of them, the leader, waves her over. "It's so nice to see that you're a big supporter for our team," he purrs.

"Yeap, go elf team! Woooo!" Jojo waves her arms in the air.

The elf smiles. "Yes, but I can see you're more of the sneaky type, rather than the spell-casting type. But you can still be a big help to us." The elf points at the dwarf team who are still parading noisily with their metal dragon. "You see those ugly dwarves? Well, I've heard that they've got a surprise lined up for the final judging. Apparently, their dragon is going to come alive and flap its wings, and breathe fire up into the air!"

The elf lowers his voice. "Which is where you come in. See this?" He shows Jojo something that looks like a metal coin. "This sticks to metal like a magnet. If you can stick this on the dwarves' dragon, their dragon won't work when it comes time for judging!"

Jojo hesitates for a while before nodding. "Uh.. yeah! Sure thing!" She takes the coin from elf and runs off. "I need to find Fastidus!" she pants, and she makes her way to Fastidus's house.

Back at the bay Sharpblade's first fight is just about to start. I start off with an announcer's voice but the kids insist that the fat wizard sounds like Sour Bill from Wreck-it Ralph.

"Citizens of Sandpoint. All hail your rightful ruler."
So I speak as slow and low as possible in an extremely boring fashion. "And in the next fight, we have... Sharpblade versus... Erik the Guard." With an elaborate wave with both hands, the fat wizard teleports Sharpblade and Erik to the wooden platform out in the bay. "Begin!"

Erik the Guard
Sharpblade wins initiative, and lands a glancing blow on Erik, showering the platform with sparks from the guard's magical field. I roll for Erik's attack and roll a lousy 5. "Erik lunges forward with a piercing thrust and stabs right through where a stomach would normally be... but of course, Sharpblade the skeleton doesn't have a stomach! The crowd goes Oooo! And then cheer when Sharpblade isn't damaged!"

Sharpblade scores another well placed hit on Erik's side, the magic field sparking to absorb the blow. Amazingly, I roll another 5 for Erik. I gabble like a sports commentator, "And it looks like Erik couldn't believe that his first attack didn't have any effect, and tries the same thing again! Oooo - it looks like he's not the brightest guard in the garrison!"

"He must be new at this," comments Jojo off-handedly.

Evan rolls another hit and uses his Power Attack feat to score 6 damage, bringing Erik's HPs down to zero. "Sharpblade does a back-hand swing and smashes Erik right off the platform! Erik flies through the air and belly-flops into the bay waters! The crowd goes wild and people are chanting, 'Sharp Blade! Sharp Blade!'"

Meanwhile, Jojo arrives back at Fastidus's house only to find that the old wizard is not in. "Of course, he's in the festival!" She groans as she makes her way back to the cathedral.

I tell Jojo, "Just then, you bump into someone. Or rather, someone bumps into you. Someone really short. You look down and see a dwarf staring up at you."

"Uh, hi! What do you want?" asks Jojo, slightly nervous.

The dwarf stabs a finger at her. "You! I've seen you! You were part of that elf dragon team!"

"Yeah, so what?"

The dwarf leans closer. "I know you! You're the sneaky type! You're not one of them snooty elf magic casters! Do you know that they've won this dragon parade contest for 3 years in a row now!? Stuck up, arrogant twerps! But this year, you can help us win this parade!"

Jojo shifts uncomfortably. "Uh, yeah? How?"

The dwarf hands Jojo a red gem. "Put this into the pocket of the lead elf. It'll make the illusion fail when it's time to judge! And when we win, we'll give you 200 gold from the prize money!"

Jojo accepts the gem. "Mom, what am I going to do!?" she wails to my wife who is listening in nearby.

My wife looks up from her knitting. "At least the dwarves are offering you something, while the elves are offering nothing at all!"

Sharpblade's next fight is soon up. Sour Bill announces the fight. "And now we have Sharpblade versus... The Iron Hammer!"

The crowd collectively gasps, and Evan looks slightly worried. Sour Bill teleports both the combatants onto the wooden platform. I hold up the GM guide. "You see a well armoured dwarf standing on the other end of the platform. He takes out his war hammer and twirls it mightily in the air like this - whoosh-whoosh!"

The Iron Hammer
"Begin!" calls out the fat wizard, and the two combatants close in. Evan wins initiative and lands a glancing blow on the dwarf. The dwarf replies with a strong swing that grazes Sharpblade's side. Over the next few rounds, we both roll a series of misses before I finally roll a hit and cause maximum damage. "Those rolls were Sharpblade and the Iron Hammer striking and parrying with each other's weapons, but then the Iron Hammer catches Sharpblade on a mighty crunch that causes him to slip off the platform and into the water! The Iron Hammer wins!"

The crowd goes wild as Sharpblade staggers underwater back up to shore. When he gets out of the water, there is a shimmer of light, and the Iron Hammer teleports in nearby. The dwarf claps Sharpblade on the shoulder and booms out, "Well fought, lad! You had me worried there for a second! When I next go adventuring, I will remember to call you along!" Evan looks slightly mollified.

"So what are you going to do, Jo?" I ask. "Whose team are you going to help?"

"Um, I'm going to find the contest judge and ask him if I could help him judge the contest."

I shake my head. "The contest judge turns out to be a skinny man with a long nose. He says in a nasally voice, 'No!'"

Jojo finally makes up her mind. "Then I'm going to go to the elf team, and I tell the elf leader to put the gem into his pocket for good luck. And then, I'm going to go to the dwarves and stick the coin on their dragon. If anyone asks, I'll say it's for luck!"

"You're going to sabotage BOTH of them?"

"Uh huh. And then I'm going to make myself real hard to find!"

So Jojo does both the deeds and then makes her way to the bayside to find Sharpblade. "Just as you arrive at the bayside, you spot Bilbi in the crowd. The boy is glad to see you, but when he sees how troubled you look, he asks what's wrong."

Jojo explains what she'd done to the boy who frowns thoughtfully. "So," he says. "There's two teams? And both teams are going to lose?"

"Uh huh."

The boy brightens up. "Then why don't we make up our own dragon, and win the contest?"

Evan laughs. "Oh, yeah! I like that idea!"

Jojo frets. "But both teams will kill me if they see me!"

It takes some coaxing from Evan and Bilbi, but Jojo eventually agrees to help build a fake dragon and parade it, as long as she does so unobtrusively. I tell the kids,"I'll give you guys a few minutes to draw what your dragon looks like!"

As the kids pore over their drawing, I give a running commentary on what's happening in the parade. "The dwarves bring their dragon close to the elf dragon, and it lashes out a metal tail through the illusion! The illusion stammers, but the elves manage to maintain their illusionary dragon and glare at the dwarves!"

"Later, the elves bring their dragon close to the dwarves dragon, and the illusionary dragon lifts a leg and pees over the dwarves dragon! The crowd laughs at the sight!"

The kids finish their drawing and parade it to me.

The Golden Claw!
"The crowd laughs at the sight of your dragon made out of junk with wings of tattered sail cloth! But you guys manage to get it ready in time for the contest!"

The contest judge calls for the dragons to be presented. The kids present their dragon first and decide to announce their dragon as 'The Golden Claw'. They earn a few generous claps. Then the elves present their beautiful illusionary dragon.

I ask the kids for a good name for the elven dragon and they oblige. "The elf leader calls out, 'Behold! The Shimmer and Shine!' The crowd gasps as the dragon glows brighter and brighter! Then, suddenly, it fades and vanishes altogether! The elves look shocked and perplexed while someone from the crowd calls out, 'More like Shimmer and Fade!'"

Next are the dwarves. Their dragon lifts up majestically and flaps its wings! The dragon raises its head skyward and opens its mouth... but only smoke comes out! Then the whole dragon begins to rattle and shake, and the whole thing disintegrates into pieces!

Jojo stares at the wreckage, aghast. "I thought that the coin was going to stop it from working, not destroy it completely!"

"Wait!" The elf leader calls out angrily, holding up the red ruby. "We were sabotaged!" And then the dwarf leader finds the coin and holds that up too. "Look at this! We were sabotaged too!"

They present the offending items to contest judge who examines at them. "So, this dwarven Disruption Gem sabotaged your illusion, and this elven enchanted Jinxed Coin ruined your dragon? I think it's clear what happened here. You're both disqualified from this contest for cheating! The winner of the dragon parade is The Golden Claw!"

The crowd cheers and I award the kids some experience points for great role playing. They decide to split the contest prize money 3 ways - 300 gold for them each, with Bilbi taking 400 gold because it was his idea.

Adventure Notes:
Okay, I admit performing some slight social experimentation there with Jojo. The whole dragon parade plot was completely improvised on the spot, and I was partly curious to see what Jojo would do. I was expecting her to make at least one group of future enemies, and was surprised when she made not one, but two groups of future enemies! I was so astonished that I forgot to ask her to make some Bluff rolls when she was placing those items on the teams' dragons.

Ironically, the less friendly Sharpblade actually makes one friend out of his contest. I struggled to think of a name for the dwarf, but then decided why bother? and went with The Iron Hammer. I think he'll invite the kids into a future adventure.

Other potential plot hooks from this session - a man talking to animals in the woods, enraged groups of elves and dwarves.

And Erik the Guard who really sucks.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pathfinder RPG - Session 2: The Lost Coast Road

Fastidus is delighted to have access to his laboratory back, and is already starting to putter around with a large tome from one of his shelves. The kids decide to patch up the crack in the wall, just in case more nasty critters crawl through. While they fix up the wall, Fastidus reads out excitedly from the tome. "See here?" He points to a diagram of a gem which looks identical to the gem on Sharpblade's skull. "This is written in a long-forgotten, ancient language, and I only can read parts of it, but this says that the gem can trap spirits! I think this is why Sharpblade can still think and reason, unlike a normal mindless skeleton..."

Jojo looks at Evan thoughtfully. "Hmm.. I wonder what happens if I smash that gem..."

Evan ignores her. "I want to look at armour. And then go find a battle ground and fight monsters."

The kids decide to check out the shops in town, so after perusing the town map, they make a stop over at Sheva's Armoury. After polling the kids for suggestions, Sheva turns out to be a replica of the shop-keeper from Frozen complete with Scandivanian accent. "Hoo hoo! Big summer blowout! Very pleased to meet some new customers! You would be interested in some weapons or armour of my own making, yah?"

"That would be in our Magical Weapons department, yah?"
The kids check out the shop, and are both disappointed to find that everything cool costs way more than what they currently have. Evan lingers over a +1 Glamoured Half Plate which can change its appearance to any sort of clothing or armour, while Jojo tries on a shadow-enchanted Studded leather that makes her vanish effortlessly into the shade.

"Do you put things aside for people?" she asks as she reluctantly returns it.

Sheva waves his hands. "Oh no, I normally do not, but for you, I will make special note in my list, yah?"

"Maybe you guys should try earning some gold from adventures?" I advised, hoping to get then out of town. The kids discuss their options; Jojo wants to go out to find the Elven huntress Shalelu who's supposed to be out on patrol, while Evan wants to explore the ruined lighthouse in Sandpoint marked on the map as the Old Light. Eventually, they agree to stop by the lighthouse on their way out of the town.

Fastidus meets them in the street. "Thank goodness I managed to catch you before you left! Here are some potions I made for you." He hands Jojo a potion of Cure Light Wounds and a potion of Feather Fall. "Unfortunately, I have nothing that Sharpblade might use. A skeleton can't drink potions, after all."

Evan looks shocked. "I can't WHAT?!?"

I grin at him, somewhat evilly. "You're a skeleton. Although you're immune to cold and poison and stuff, you can't drink anything which means no potions. I mean, where's all the liquid going to go? It'll just pass straight through and wet the floor!"

"But how am I going to heal up and stuff?"
"You'll just have to find some other way."
"But... DAAAD!"
"Haha," voices Jojo as she writes down her new potions.

The kids arrive at the Old Light. "You see ruins of what must have been a huge tower at the top of a cliff. You expect to see no one here, but you're surprised to see  a group of townsfolk gathered around something. Do you want to approach them?"

Jojo and Evan approach together. One of the townsfolk notices Sharpblade and greets Jojo. "Hello there. Nice skeleton you have with you,"

Jojo shakes her head. "First off, he's not my skeleton - I'm just here to keep him out of trouble. Secondly, I'm here to find Shalelu - do you know where she is?"

The townsman doesn't know where Shalelu is. Meanwhile, the rest of the townsfolk are gathered around what seems to be a hole in the ground.

"Did a monster make that hole?" asks Evan eagerly.

"Oh, no. A boy fell into this hole this morning and we just got him out. He's over at the temple now for healing. We're trying to work out how to fill up this hole. It seems to be a room under the lighthouse ruins. Could be dangerous things down there, so we're not too keen to go down there ourselves."

Nothing attracts curious heroes more than an old ruined lighthouse
The kids discuss this and decide to leave the hole. "We want to go out of town and find Shalelu," said Jojo. "We might come back to explore this later."

So the two adventurers leave town. I draw a close up of the road map for them. "You travel out of town following the road. You're on the Lost Coast Road, a road built a long time ago during the old kingdom days. At first there's quite a number of people of the road, with wagons and horses and such, but as you get further away from town, you see fewer and fewer people."

"Because people who leave town... don't.. come.. back! Dun dun duuun!" Jojo breaks out into evil laughter.

I push on. "About 3 hours out, you come to a strange sight. You see in the distance, a caravan hitched to two horses. The caravan and horses are not moving - it's just parked on the road. Near the caravan is the edge of the forest. Do you want to go closer?"

They decide to approach the caravan. Cautiously. "As you get closer, you hear someone calling out in the forest,'Gaffi!? Gaffi, where are you!?"

"I'll go into the forest towards the voice," says Jojo.
"Well, I'm going to check out the caravan," declares Evan.

Jojo enters the forest and finds a small boy aged about nine who is calling out for Gaffi. She introduces herself to the boy, who looks a bit frightened, but tells her that he's looking for a man named Gaffi who isn't his father, but looks after him. They live in the caravan and stopped on the road because Gaffi needed to relieve himself in the forest. "That was an hour ago, and he hasn't come back," says the boy in tears.

Meanwhile, Evan is checking out the caravan. "You see that the caravan is weathered and well-travelled. The two horses pay you no heed, and there is a small platform at the back of the caravan where you can step up and enter through the back door."

Evan climbs into the caravan, checks out the little stove and kitchen and bunk beds. "Okay, I'm going to... climb into the drivers seat, and drive this caravan away!" he chortles.

"You sit in the drivers seat, and take the reins, and go 'Heeyah!'... but the horses don't move! You try several times, and the horses just look back disinterestedly at you."

The caravan on the road
In the forest, Jojo learns the boy's name as Bilbi and she spots a trail going further into the forest. Following the trail, she comes across a little stream, and sees a man lying face-down on the bank, next to a large rock.

"I approach very slowly, and watch that suspicious-looking rock," she instructs. Jojo gets close and reaches the man. He is still alive, but unconscious. There is a bloody gash on the side of his head.

"You can try to wake him with a Heal skill check," I tell her. Jojo tries but fails to wake the man who Bilbi confirms is Gaffi. She decides to carry him back to the caravan.

Meanwhile, Evan has gotten off the drivers seat and is trying to move the horses by scaring them. But even with him standing right in front of the horses and shouting menacingly, the horses refuse to move. He's convinced that these must be the bravest horses he's ever seen.

Jojo carrying Gaffi, and Bilbi come out of the forest to witness Sharpblade in front of the horses shouting at them. "What on earth are you doing...?"

Just then, the ground starts to shake, and a huge mound of earth rises out in between Jojo and Evan. "A towering figure rises out of the ground made out of rock and patches of moss and twigs! You see.. THIS!" I show them a picture of an Earth Elemental from the Game Masters guide.

Earth Elemental!
"Upon seeing the Earth Elemental, the horses rear up in panic, and dash forward - right where Evan is standing in shock!"

Evan throws himself aside with a successful Reflex save. "Wait! As the horses go by, I want to jump on them and ride away with them!"

"Okay, it's a tough jump, but make an Acrobatics skill check." Evan rolls and fails the skill check. "You jump high in order to land on the passing horse - but the horse moves by too fast and you miss and slam into the side of the caravan instead! You land on the ground, sprawled on your back!"

We all make our initiative rolls, and Jojo moves first, followed by Evan and then the Earth Elemental. Jojo launches a sneak attack with her rapier, only to have it glance harmlessly against the elemental's rocky leg in a shower of sparks. Evan gets up and says determinedly,"I'm going to run after the caravan and jump in through the back door."

With a dazzling display of acrobatics, Evan lunges after the fleeing caravan and hurls himself in through the back door to land inside the caravan.

"The earth elemental turns its head with a grinding growl and moves after the largest thing it sees - which is the caravan! With a dive underground, the elemental swims through the earth like a fish through water, rapidly gaining on the caravan!"


Momentarily out of danger, Jojo decides to try to wake Gaffi again. She succeeds her Heal skill check and Gaffi opens his eyes. "Where am I?" Gaffi explains that the last thing he remembers is going into the forest and peeing against a large rock before something smashes into the side of his head.

"Ohhhh no," groans Jojo as she puts the facts together.

Evan sees the elemental gaining on the caravan and throws his war hammer at it, which misses just as the elemental dives into the earth again. He desperately starts throwing anything he can find at it, and soon pots, pans, and ducky underwear all start flying out of the back of the caravan, some hitting the elemental as it continues its relentless pursuit.

"I'm going to give you one more turn before the elemental catches up with you," I tell Evan.

"Cut the horses loose and jump off the caravan!" suggests Jojo.

"Can I jump on the horses, and then cut them loose?" Evan asks.

"Well, you'll have to make an Acrobatics skill check to do that. And if you miss, it could get real bad because you might land on the ground and get run over by the caravan."

Evan thinks a bit. "I'm going to take the reins... and turn the caravan!" He makes a Riding skill check, and succeeds!

"The caravan swerves dangerously on two wheels as you make a mad turn, and then you're racing past the elemental which is going the other way! The elemental growls in surprise and turns around to give chase!"

Jojo stares in shock as she sees the caravan racing back straight towards her. "I push Gaffi and Bilbi into the forest and tell them to hide. And this is probably going to get me killed, but I'll wait for the caravan to pass and then stand right in the way of the elemental, hold up my hand and say, 'STOP!'"

Gaffi and Bilbi hurry into the forest as the caravan with Evan driving it speeds past. Jojo steps up in front of the charging elemental and yells STOP! Incredibly, the elemental stops in front of her and draws itself up menacingly over her.

Jojo clears her throat. "Um.. I know that you're mad because that stupid guy peed on you - I don't want to know where! But it was an accident, umm.. so if you let us leave, we'll umm.. forget this ever happened!"

I get her to make a Diplomacy skill check and she barely makes it. "The earth elemental growls at you, but at least you can see it is less mad than before. Make a Perception check." Jojo does and succeeds. "You see a wet patch just over and under its left eye."

Evan blanches. "Eww! It got pee in its eye! No wonder it's so mad! It probably stings!"

Jojo raises her hands. "If you come with me, I'll help you wash it off in the stream." Another successful Diplomacy roll later, she's leading the elemental off into the forest.

Gaffi turns to Evan who manages to bring the caravan back. "I don't know who you guys are, but you're both crazy!"

He offers them a ride back into town, and so they do.

Adventure Notes:

I find it entertaining to let the kids decide what some of the NPCs look like - that shopkeeper from Frozen was a great suggestion, along with accent and silly dialogue. I've always found it important to give PCs some sort of financial goal to work towards, and am pretty sure the Glamoured Half-Plate and Shadowed Studded Leather are lodged in their heads for now.

After chucking numerous plot hooks at the kids, they finally take one and it certainly turned out interesting. Gaffi and Bilbi will probably some in useful in future sessions as normal townsfolk. Meanwhile, that hole in the ground is just waiting to be explored.

I didn't know exactly what would happen with the Earth Elemental - the kids would have probably been able to take it on if they worked together (or at worst, let it destroy the caravan while they escape with Gaffi and Bilbi), and the diplomatic ending came as a pleasant surprise to me. Jojo is ecstatic that she managed to 'befriend' an earth elemental, and she hasn't stopped talking about going out to visit it again one day.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pathfinder RPG - Session 1: Sandpoint

Being the first session, I decide that it was important to let the kids explore Sandpoint and get some idea over the general surroundings before launching them into an adventure.

 "Okay guys, this is part of the land you're in. See this town? That's Sandpoint, the only and most important town in the area. This whole place used to belong to a kingdom, but many years ago, monsters attacked the kingdom and the people had to leave. Now, people are starting to come back to this land because there is valuable stuff here, like precious metals and jewels in the mountains, and wood in the forests. The only safe way in is by ship, so that's why Sandpoint is an important port. There's an old road called the Lost Coast Road that passes through the town and leads to these little farms out in the country. However there're still monsters around, which is why adventurers like yourselves are welcome here to help get rid of them."

"Before we start, you guys should introduce your characters. What's and who is your character, Jo?"

My 9 year old daughter Josephine, or Jojo for short, had copied the Elf Rogue character stats that came with the Beginners Box with some minor changes. "My character is an Elf and I grew up in an orphanage. I learnt how to play pranks and stuff there, especially on the person in charge who is like Miss Hannigan from Annie. The best trick was when I put a bucket of water on top of a door and it splashed down on Miss Hannigan when she came through. Anyway, one day they told me that it was time to leave the orphanage because I was old enough. I really wanted to travel, so I went to the harbour and found work on a ship. For some time, that ship became like my new home; they taught me my skills on the ship. Then I found out that the people on the ship were actually a group like the Avengers and they wanted me to go to Sandpoint to find out why all the monsters are attacking the place. So I'm here like on a spy mission for them."

"Interesting! Is your character named Jojo as well?"
"No, but I haven't decided what her name is yet."

"We love you Miss Hannigan!"
Jojo's nameless Elven Rogue
"Hmm.. okay. How about you, Evan? What's your character?"

My 7 year old son Evan brandishes his character sheet, complete with self-drawn portrait. "My character is a fighter named Sharpblade. He's a human, but he was brought up by elves. Then one day, one million goblins, one thousand goblin bosses and five ogres came and destroyed five of the elf kingdoms. I escaped to the sixth elf kingdom on a horse, and just as I arrived, i was attacked by ninjas who put me in a prison cell where I died."

"Well, that was a very short adventure for your character, Ev…"

"Wait! Not finished yet! The cell where they put me had this magic liquid stuff on the floor, and they used this to turn me into... a skeleton!"

"So your character is a SKELETON?"

"Uh huh. And he has this red jewel on his forehead. The ninjas then sent me here to work for them."

Sharpblade the Chaotic Neutral Skeleton
Needless to say, I had some concerns over Evan's choice of character. "Well, normally skeletons are like evil robots - they are mindless creatures, Ev." Some inspiration struck. "Maybe that red jewel allows you to think like when you were still human."

"Yah, it's like it's got my spirit stuff in it."

"Okay, one problem, Ev, is if people see you walking around in the town, they're all going to panic and destroy you. I think you will have to wear a cloak and hood to hide your skull and bones. Anyway, you both arrive in Sandpoint on the same ship and soon you are in the harbour-side. It is very busy with lots of people carrying goods and transporting cargo."

"Is there a battleship? Like in Pearl Harbour?"

"Yes, but this is olden times, so the battleship is made out of wood, and has sails, and lots of cannons along the side. There is one parked out at sea - it's too big to get in, so little boats are going to and from the ship, probably bringing supplies for its next voyage."

"Anyway, you both see a man dressed in official clothes calling in a loud voice, 'Newcomers to Sandpoint? Newcomers to Sandpoint!?" He spots you two and comes over, "Are you two new to Sandpoint?"

"Yes, we are new here," says Jojo.

"Great, if you are looking for work, there lots to do depending on what you are capable of. You can help transport cargo, or go out to chop trees, or if you are adventurers, you can find work at the Rusty Dragon tavern. If you go there, say hello to Ameiko the owner." I explained that a tavern was like a cafe with a bar where adventurers tend to hang out and rest. Some even have rooms where you can sleep in. Jojo reminds me that her nameless elf doesn't need to sleep, and Evan doubts his skeleton does either.

They make their way to the Rusty Dragon tavern. "You both enter the tavern which has a huge dragons head made out of metal hanging over the front door. It's so rusty and it looks like it will fall on someone one day. There are tables in the center of the large room, and a long bar along the side. The place is filled with people talking and drinking. You both seat yourselves at an empty table and observe the rest of the people. There's a table where a group of elf wizards are sitting, and a table of humans and dwarves, all decked out in armour. You soon notice that everyone is glancing at the both of you, and the look they give you sort of says, "hah, new comers. Let's see how long these guys will last."

"There is a guy dressed in a uniform going from table to table. He eventually makes it to you guys and says, 'Welcome to Sandpoint. I see you both are new. Do you have any questions about the place?" 

Jojo asks, "I want to know where the monsters are."

The uniformed guy replies, "Monsters? They're outside the town. The best person to ask about monsters is Shalelu the elf. She's a huntress who used to work for us, the town guards, but she preferred to work alone, so she goes out by herself to patrol the area." I show them a picture of Shalelu from the Game Master guide.

Shalelu the Elven Huntress
Jojo nods approvingly. "I like her already."

"She normally goes out for a few days before coming back, but we haven't seen her for a week now. Perhaps you guys can go look for her? She was patrolling the eastern road."

Evan speaks up. "I reach forward and say to him, 'Give me all your money and stuff!"

I blink. "A town guard is like a police officer, Evan. You want to rob a police officer?!? I don't think that's a good idea, Ev."

Evan doesn't seem to happy but he backs down. "Didn't know he was a police officer."

Jojo thanks the town guard and he moves off.

"Another person arrives at your table. She looks like the owner of the tavern, 'Welcome to the Rusty Dragon, kids! First time drinks are on the house!"

Jojo shrugs. "I don't drink. And neither does Evan."
"Cause I'm a skeleton," supplies Evan.
"There is something for everyone here in the Rusty Dragon. How about fruit juice?"

Jojo accepts the fruit juice, while Evan attempts to drink his, resulting in a large puddle on his seat. Ameiko chuckles to Jojo, "I think your friend just wet himself!"

Amidst the laughter, Evan stands up indignantly. "I'm going to pull back my hood and open my cloak to show that I'm a skeleton!"

"You're going to do that in the middle of a tavern full of seasoned adventurers who have probably killed hundreds of skeletons?!?"

"Uh huh."

"Okay. Sharpblade stands up and pulls back his hood to reveal his skull. The whole tavern fall silent and everyone stares at him. Nobody reaches for their weapons though."

Jojo says. "Uh, I get ready my sword."

"Everything is silent for 5 seconds, then Ameiko recovers from her shock, and looks around angrily at the crowd, 'Okay, whose skeleton is this? I told you guys, no pranks with skeletons in my tavern! Someone own up by the time I count to three, otherwise this skeleton is getting dismantled!"

Nobody says anything.

"One! Two!"

Just before she reaches three, a hand waves from the back of the room. "Sorry! That's my skeleton! Sorry for the joke!" An old wizard who was sitting by himself in the corner that you didn't notice makes his way towards Evan. When he gets close, he whispers to Evan, "Play along if you want to live."

Evan decides to play along and walk like a clumsy automaton while following the old wizard who is apologising profusely as they leave the tavern. Jojo follows them cautiously in secret as she doesn't trust this wizard very much.

The wizard leads them down a nearby alleyway, and to a small townhouse. He ushers Sharpblade inside and just before he closes the door, he calls out to Jojo, "You might as well come in too. No point hanging around out there."

Jojo decides to come in too and the wizard closes the door. "Whew! That was close! Those guys would have decimated you for sure!" He introduces himself. "My name is Fastidus. I'm a wizard researcher, so I don't really fight monsters and stuff. But anyway," he glances over at Sharpblade. "You are a thinking skeleton, aren't you? That's fascinating! I recognise that gem you have on your forehead! I have a book downstairs that has a diagram just like that! I never thought I'd see one in real life!"

Jojo introduces herself and explains that she's here to find out why the monsters are attacking the town.

Fastidus listens and nods. "Well, the monsters are attacking because... well, they're monsters! Monsters always try to attack settlements like these! There is no logical reason why they do it, unless there is some evil controlling their attacks! And anyway, this town isn't the first settlement to try to stay in this land. Did you know that Sandpoint is built over the ruins of a previous town? Yes, under us, there are tunnels and secret passageways that no one really wants to know about. I could tell you more, but unfortunately, my laboratory in the cellar downstairs is.. um.. unavailable."

The kids ask Fastidus to elaborate, so he does. "Well, just yesterday, I was down in my lab, and I heard a scuttle sound and a hiss. I knew there was a monster in the room, so I fled the room and locked the door. I haven't been down there since."

After some discussion, the kids decide to check out the lab for Fastidus. The old wizard pulls open a trapdoor in the middle of the room which reveals a spiral stairway going down. With their weapons at ready, the kids descend the stairway and come to a wooden door at the bottom. The door is glowing slightly with magic.

Fastidus calls out from above,"Oh! I almost forgot! I magically locked the door! To unlock it, just say the magic password 'Fatguts!'" He hesitates. "Um, or was it 'Ratguts'? One of the two anyway. Be careful because if you say the wrong password, that will trigger the fire trap."

"You tell us this now?" exclaims Jojo.
"So now what?" I ask. "Fatguts or Ratguts?"
The kids decide on Ratguts. I roll a d6 to determine 50-50 chance of success. "It works! The door stops glowing and you can open it."

I sketch out a small oval-shaped cellar room with a large table full of alchemy vials and bottles in the middle, some bookshelves along the walls, a cauldron in the corner, and a large bookcase at the far end. "You can't see what's behind the bookcase," I inform them.

The kids cautiously enter the cellar room together. I call for a Perception skill check, which Jojo succeeds. "You spot a strange thing on the floor in front of you. It looks like an insect leg... that's about the length of your arm!"

"Is it broken off, or chewed off?" Evan asked intently.
"Uh, broken off.. I think."

The kids survey the lab apparatus on the table before carefully moving towards the bookcase. "You both reach the side of the bookcase and peer around it. You see what looks like a large crack in the wall, big enough for a dog to get through." I draw streaks in front of the crack. "And you also see lots and lots of spider webs in front of it."

"Giant Spider!" they both exclaim.

Fastidus's cellar

Giant Spider!!!
"Perception roll!" I order, and they both roll and succeed."You spot something at the corner of your eye, and you both turn around just in time to see a Giant Spider crawling out from under the table! It smashes glass vials and bottles as it climbs on the tabletop, hissing like this - Sssssss! You also notice that one of its legs is missing!"

We all make our Initiative rolls, and Evan gets to go first. "I smash it with my war hammer!" Evan rolls a hit and scores maximum damage!

"You step forward and smash your war hammer down into the Spider's back! Yellow ichor splurts everywhere and the spider hisses even louder in anger!"

Jojo goes next and throws her dagger. She rolls a hit, even with the -4 penalty for a ranged attack on an opponent next to an ally, and does 3 damage. "I get extra sneak attack damage," she reminds me and she rolls a 6 on the d6.

"Jojo throws the dagger, and you can almost see it fly in slow motion, spinning on its side as it actually passes through Sharpblade's ribcage and thunks into the spider's head! The spider gives out a last shrieking hiss and dies on the table!"

Fastidus pokes his head around the door. "You got it? Thank goodness! Now help me clean up this mess, and I'll see if I can find that book!"

Adventure notes: 

The Beginners Box comes with a wonderful setting for a town called Sandpoint which I hope the kids will make their home base. It's tempting to start on the Black Fang adventure straight away, but I decided that we should explore the town a bit more to get a feel of the place. I planned that they should meet someone at the tavern to give them their first adventure, and Evan's skeleton-flashing stunt sort of way-laid those plans, so I hurriedly came up with Fastidus to save their skins. 

This session took almost 2 hours and it was getting late by the time they got to Fastidus's house, and I wanted to throw in at least one short fight scene before finishing up, so the Giant Spider was a perfect fit. It would have been interesting if the Spider actually got to snare one of them in its web, but the dice were hot that night for the kids, so it never even got to use it. Still, it was an exciting end, and a great start for the kids on their Pathfinder adventure.