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.

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