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.


  1. Hi KK, I read this post over 3 years ago and it inspired me to start down the path to learn how to DM/GM RPGs for my kids (who at the time were ages 2 and just-born). I knew to be as comfortable improvising and rolling with things as you, I was going to need to develop some DM chops. I’ve since had the pleasure of running 4 regular games and playing in 2 with adult friends, and my kids having a blast when I bust out the dice (and sometimes the minis). Our most recent adventure included a trip to Venus where Druid the druid (5 year-old) and Spider-Man (3 year-old) fought some goblins, only to have spider man turn out to be Darth Vader in disguise. Druid obviously shape-shifted into Darth Vader for a mirror-match finale. Thank you!!!

  2. Hah! A trip to Venus for a death-match between Darth Vader duos.
    That's simply awesome! :)

    If you like a quick RPG-like game without the prep-work, we sometimes play 'CHEAT your own adventure' during long car-trips. Worth trying!

    1. Very cool little game! Will have to give it a try. Given their ages after learning and running a lot of 5th Ed D&D, I picked up Dungeon World which is amazing practice for the dramatic back-and-forth and makes for a great player-and-GM game. Also wrote down some notes on stripping 5e down even more which I often use to wing a quick game without any writing

  3. Jojo says: "You are an amazing dad managing to raise children who can incorporate Star Wars, Marvel and fantasy with a trip into space!! Thumbs up!!"

    1. I found out they could thanks to a certain elf rogue and a formerly-human-now-skeleton fighter. Thanks Jojo and Evan! :)