Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pathfinder RPG - Session 5: The Rune Portal

“Well, the good news is that you guys have earned enough Experience points to level up to Level 2! Hooray!” We all cheer, and then Jojo happily informs me that she does not know what ‘level up’ means in Pathfinder. I explain that it means that their characters are now tougher and better at what they do.

Evan was up first, so I hand him a d10. “Roll this and add 1. This will be the number of Hitpoints you gain from the level up.”

Evan takes the die and rolls 0. He immediately snatches it up again. “Uh, can I roll that again?”

I explain to him that 0 on a d10 is actually 10, the highest number you could roll on a d10. He looks dubious, but wisely accepts my explanation, and adds up his new Hitpoint total to 22.

After adjusting his Fortitude and Reflex saves, we get to Feats. Here, I skim through the list of potential new Feats he can gain, which, as a warrior, is quite extensive. We consider choosing Weapon Focus on his war hammer (his current Weapon Focus is on his axe) when I go, “Hmm.. see this feat here called Cleave?” I briefly self-read the description from the GM guide. “It means, um..  that if you attack and hit an opponent, you.. get an extra attack to hit another opponent next to the first one. And you get +2 on these attacks, but also -2 on your AC.”

Evan looks at me blankly until Jojo pipes up. “It means you can hit two bad guys at the same time. Like this.” She demonstrates with a cleaving motion and a Pow! Pow! sound effect.

“Cool!” He writes it down on his character sheet.

Next is Jojo. I’ve been thinking about her character progression, and now that we are several sessions in, I realise that she’s playing less like a Rogue and more like a Ranger or a Druid. And there were a number of times she’s asked me about how she might find and tame animals.

I explain this to Jojo and add, “The Beginner’s Box only comes with a Wizard, Warrior, Rogue and Cleric, but you know what? We can look up the Ranger class on the web, and rather than starting over with a Ranger, I think it makes sense if Lexi multi-classes into it! That’ll make you a Ranger-Rogue, and you can gain a bunch of new class features too.”

So for the next 20 minutes, we scour through the online Paizo Pathfinder reference document to learn more about the Ranger class, and soon Jojo is writing in her new Ranger class features. She is particularly delighted to have Wild Empathy which allows her to tame, or at least calm, animals.

“It also says here that you can select a Favored Enemy which gives you a bonus when fighting or dealing with that type of creature.” We go through the list of creature types, and for a while there, Jojo entertains the thought of taking Favored Enemy (Undead) and beating up Sharpblade. In the end though, she settles on Favored Enemy (Goblinoid) which makes sense given the number of goblins she’d dispatched in the last adventure.

And so, with their characters updated with new statistical goodness, the kids launch into the next session.

Adventure notes:
I think it’s great that the Pathfinder Core Reference document is available in the Paizo site, and it really helps enhance the whole Pathfinder experience. The Beginners Box is a great way to get into the game, and there is so much free online content for Pathfinder (or its compatible predecessor D&D 3.5). Hooray for the internet. 

* * * * *

“The injuries Lexi sustained during her fight with Hork’s wolf are pretty bad. After the wolves and Egan have disappeared, you guys decide to head back to Egan’s house to rest. However, just as you are leaving, you notice something in the ruined temple. Now that the rest of the ceiling has caved in, there is a rune carved into one of the pillars that you’ve not noticed till now.”

The adventurers take a closer look at the rune. “You both recognize this rune! It’s the same as the one you’ve seen at that portal in the farm house!” They take note of it and head back to Egan’s house. The bearded man, however, is not in.

“He’s probably out running around with his wolf friends,” says Jojo.

They rest in the house, and the next morning, they still see no sign of Egan. I suggest that if they are going continue to resting in the house, they should go get Gaffi and Bilbi to come as well, so Sharpblade goes off to fetch them. They hide the caravan under some shady trees and cut branches before heading back to the house where Lexi is resting.

“Lexi is recovering, but slowly. The wounds that wolf gave her are still bleeding quite badly.” Gaffi helps Lexi wash it out, while Bilbi and Sharpblade explore the rest of the house, from the vegetable and herb patch in the backyard to the surrounding trees.

“Just about midday, you all suddenly hear a voice calling from outside. ‘Hello, the house! Is anyone in?’” The adventurers look outside, and see a strange little man no taller than a human’s waist. He is dressed in greens, has a longbow on his back, with worn leather boots. There is a bright smile on his face. “’Ah! You must be the guests that Egan told me about! He came to me last night and asked that I look in on you all to check if you’re alright!’”

I explain to the kids that this man is a halfling, similar to a hobbit from The Hobbit. The halfling introduces himself as Traxander BirdSpotter, and tells them to call him Trax for short.

“Or how about Bird?” queries Jojo.

“Or Spotty?” asks Evan.

“Those are okay too, but I think he prefers to be called Trax,” I reply.

After Trax comes in, it is immediately apparent that he knows his way around the house. He gets a pot of tea boiling, checks out Lexi’s wounds and tut-tuts to himself. He goes to the backyard and selects some herbs, pounds them together into a paste and spreads it on Lexi’s wounds. The elf immediately feels better, and the halfling offers to put the rest of the healing herbs into a little container for her to carry.

It is also immediately apparent that this halfling cannot quite stop chattering. A simple question of, ‘How do you know Egan?’ leads to an hour-long regaling of how the bearded man had rescued him from a nest of angry forest spiders.

Jojo asks him about Egan and the wolves, and he relates to them about how Black Fang goblins are known to capture wolves for riding, although usually not this far west. There is apparently a fortified training camp somewhere in the hills near Black Fang where wolves and other unfortunate creatures are cruelly trained to be goblin mounts. Being a werewolf bonded to the wolves of the forest, Egan was adamant not to let any of his pack suffer such a fate.

“Ah, yes, very, very sad about Egan’s werewolf condition. He doesn’t like to talk about it, and I felt that it was impolite to ask, don’t you agree?” He has observed that Egan tends to disappear for days at a time after each transformation, and has hidden dwellings all over the forest.

“I think he talks too much,” grumbles Evan while Jojo makes a chatterbox motion with her hand.

“Hmm.. yes, he is quite a chatterbox. Oh, I forgot about Pippi!”

“Who’s Pippi?”

The next morning, the adventurers find Trax outside the house, calling ‘Pippi! Pippi!’ into the bushes. There is a rustling, and out of the bushes appears a large and fairly tubby ferret.

“He’s got a pet ferret!? Cool!”

Pippi is a very bright female ferret who would shamelessly do anything for a food reward. She is intensely curious and checks out each of her new friends with interest. With Sharpblade, she is delighted to discover that he is almost completely hollow inside his armour, being bones and all, and she starts hoarding things inside, much to the kids’ amusement.

Trax incessantly dotes on his animal companion, and in return, Pippi completely ignores him unless he has some food.

After a few peaceful days, Bilbi comes up with an idea. “Hey, you know that White Lady at the temple? I wonder what will happen if someone actually gave praise to the Runelord Xanderghul. Didn’t she say something about a reward?”

The boy is adamant to give it a go, so the two adventurers and the boy go visit the ruined temple again. “Soon, you arrive at the temple. There is no sign of dead goblins anywhere. You suppose that there are other creatures in the forest which feed on dead goblins.”

Bilbi walks up to the temple, and the White Lady appears. After her greeting, he clears his throat and says, “I think Runelord Xandergul is, uh.. really great!”. The White Lady shakes her head in response and says, “Your praise is insufficient, mortal.” She disappears with a shimmer.

By now, the kids are hankering to go next. Evan gets up and starts a whole singing and dance routine to the tune of ‘Everything is awesome!’ from the Lego Movie, changing the words to ‘Xanderghul is awesome!’ instead. I tell him to roll for a Bluff check (with some bonuses for good effort) but unfortunately, he too does not make it.

Perhaps the White Lady is sick of this song too.
Jojo goes next. “Oh, runelord Xanderghul! You are great, and mighty and there is no other runelord like you!”. She rolls a success on her Bluff check. Immediately, the White Lady smiles at her, and disappears with a shimmer. In her place, there is a smooth round stone with a rune on it. She collects it and writes ‘Rune stone’ in her character sheet.

“Oh! Let’s see if this rune stone helps us to get through that portal!” exclaims Evan excitedly.

With much anticipation, the adventurers travel to the old abandoned farm house and wait in the side-room for night to fall. Sure enough, when the first rays of the moon light up the room, there is a thrum of magic, and the portal appears.

“Okay, uh… I’ll throw the rune stone at the portal,” says Jojo. The elf throws the rune stone and the stone passes through the barrier and disappears into the portal. Nothing else happens. “Ohhh, right. Maybe I should have walked through the portal while holding the rune stone!”

Sharpblade tries to run into the portal again, and keeps bouncing off the barrier until the portal finally disappears when a cloud covers the moon.

“Well,” says Bilbi. “At least we know how to get more rune stones, yeah?”

The next morning sees the three of them back at the ruined temple. “Bilbi has prepared something more eloquent this time, and after his speech, the White Lady smiles and the boy is rewarded with a rune stone of his own.”

Lexi does another worthy praise and earns a rune stone too. Sharpblade tries another song and dance, but he still earns nothing for all his efforts. Bilbi says to Sharpblade, “Hey, trade you my rune stone for 20 gold?” Sharpblade agrees and soon is one rune stone richer and 20 gold poorer.

That night back at the farm house, the three of them wait for the portal to appear, which it does. “Okay, who’s going to go in first?” I ask. Sharpblade doesn’t even hesitate, and he plunges through the portal. Jojo is a bit more cautious and takes my suggestion to tie a rope around her waist and secure the other end of the rope to the doorway of the room. She then jumps through the portal.

“For a while, you see nothing but darkness. Then your eyes adjust but you don’t see much more. Lexi lets out a breath, and bubbles come out of her mouth. You are both underwater!”

“Hah! I don’t need to hold my breath because I don’t need to breathe!” declares Evan. Sharpblade looks around and sees that they have appeared in the midst of some ruined archways. The surface of the water is high above, and it must be night-time because he can see the moonlight shining down. Schools of fish swim by, and there is wavy seaweed everywhere.

The other side of the Rune Portal
 “Hmm.. it looks like more ruins. Maybe another temple?” says Evan.

“Do I see the first rune stone I threw in?” asks Jojo. The elf spots the rune stone lying in front of the portal and picks it up. “Well, I’m swimming back through the portal before I drown!” says Jojo. The elf turns back to the portal and starts making her way towards it.

“Before you go, both of you make a perception roll,” I request. Evan rolls well. “Sharpblade suddenly notices something large and dark swim past outside the archways.”

“How large?”

“About as big as a whale.”

Jojo considers herself an expert on all creatures maritime. “What sort of whale? A killer whale, or a blue whale?”

“Um.. a blue whale?”

Lexi does not deviate and swims through the portal. She gets through and splashes out into the farmhouse side-room, much to the relief of Bilbi who is waiting there.

Sharpblade, on the other hand, steps out closer to the archway to take a better look. “You stand in the middle of the archway and try to look out to see if you can spot what it is. Suddenly, out of the murky darkness, you see it swimming straight at you!” The skeleton catches a glimpse of rows of long sharp teeth and a pair of milky white eyes. “It looks almost like the face of an angler fish!” The kids certainly remember the angler fish from Finding Nemo.

“Dad, I’m a skeleton, right? So if this thing eats me, I won’t die, right? I can just slice my way out of its tummy!”

“Hmm.. well. It’s true that you won’t die. But you might get crushed in the creature’s jaws, and then all that’s left of you in the creature’s tummy is just your skull. That’ll probably be the end of your adventures as Sharpblade, stuck forever in some monster’s belly!”

Evan wisely decides to turn and sprint back to the portal.

“You’re underwater, so your movements are really slow, like this!” I demonstrate with my arms. “As you go, you see that whatever it is, it has swum up and over the archway. You look up and see a long body with fins swimming over you before it disappears into the darkness again.”

“How does its tail fin work?” asks Jojo. “Up and down, or from side to side?”

“Side to side. By the way, Lexi notices a cloud coming to cover the moon outside!”

“Hurry, Evan! The portal is going to close!”

Underwater ruined archways
“Aaahh!” exclaims Evan. The skeleton almost makes it back through the portal when I tell him, “You suddenly spot something half-buried in the mucky ground next to the portal! It looks like the lid of a treasure chest!”

“Leave it! I’m going through the portal!”

“Really? I reckon you have a couple of turns or so. You don’t want to try taking the chest?”

Evan is adamant. “No way! I’m leaving right now!” Nothing persuades him otherwise, even when I describe a curious skull carving on the lid. In the end, the skeleton makes it through the portal.

“Sharpblade steps out of the portal, and water gushes out of the holes and chinks of his armour, making him look like some kind of weird fountain statue. There is a flopping sound inside his armour, and Sharpblade has to spill out some fish on the floor.”

The adventurers are about to tell Bilbi where they have been when there is a sudden BASH! from the blue portal. They watch as a few more bashes shakes the portal before it shimmers and disappears.

“I think something big was trying to get through the portal, but it couldn’t because it didn’t have a rune stone.” I tell the kids. The kids discuss what sort of creature that might have been. Jojo has already concluded that it must have been a giant eel, perhaps a Moray. Evan thinks that it’s just some monster that Dad made up.

I make some suggestions on how they can explore the underwater ruins next time. Perhaps a water-breathing potion? We all decide that perhaps it’s time to return to Sandpoint to pick one up.

Adventure Notes:

My initial thoughts of the portal were to have it lead to some place dangerous where the kids pick up a valuable artifact and then leave before it gets too dangerous. The underwater ruins and large swimming monster fit that mold, but unfortunately, I might have scared them both too much to even attempt to pick up some treasure on the way out. Next time I’ll show them the treasure first, get them invested into getting it out, and then introduce some danger.

The hazards of mixing GMing and child psychology.

Plot hooks: A skull-marked treasure chest underwater beyond the Rune Portal. A goblin training camp turning wolves into mounts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pathfinder RPG - Session 4: Egan's Wood

Jojo finally decides on a name for her elven rogue - Lexi. She is busy writing the name into her character sheet while I set the scene. "The next day, everything goes back to normal in Sandpoint. The shops are open again, and there are busy crowds everywhere."

"Is the fighting contest still on?" asks Evan eagerly.

"No, that was only for the Festival. No fighting contests on today."

Somewhat disappointed, Sharpblade decides to take a stroll to the Rusty Dragon Tavern. Nobody barely pays him any notice as he walks into the tavern; word has probably gotten out that he was some skeleton controlled by the wizard Fastidus.

"As you enter the place, Ameiko the tavern owner stands in front of you and whispers, 'Fastidus? Can you hear me from here!?'"

Evan frowns. "What's she doing?"

"I think she thinks you're a skeleton who is controlled by Fastidus. Like a remote control robot," I supply.

Evan looks indignant. "Well, I'm not! I tell her that I'm a real skeleton and not controlled by anyone!"

Despite telling Ameiko that he is not controlled by Fastidus, the tavern owner brushes his comments aside. "Listen, you old mule! You told me to tell you if any of them turn up in here, and this morning a group of them did. So there you go, consider yourself informed." The tavern owner goes off back to serving customers at a nearby table.

Evan doesn't know what to make of it, so in the end, he decides to go see what Lexi is up to.

Jojo is determined to go chase after the rumour that there is someone in a nearby forest who can talk to animals. "Maybe he can teach me how to talk to animals too!" She plumbs Fastidus for more details, and the old wizard tells her that the rumours come from Egan's Wood, almost a few days away on foot.

Evan gets an idea. "I know! Maybe we can ask Gaffy and Bilbi if we can ride their caravan to the wood!"

We all think it's a great idea, and I tell the kids that Gaffy and Bilbi are happy to bring them to Egan's Wood, so soon the caravan is making its merry way down south along the Lost Coast Road.

Egan's Wood - Southeast of Sandpoint
"It's a peaceful drive, and in the distance, you can see plenty of farms and fields on this side of Sandpoint. Only when you get closer to the Brinestump Marsh do the farms start thinning out. It's a dangerous place, those marshlands, with plenty of nasty creatures living in it, so most people avoid it. But your journey takes to inland and soon, you arrive at an old abandoned farm next to what has to be Egan's Wood.”

The group gets out for a stretch. Jojo is eager to start searching the woods, so Lexi makes her way into the trees while Sharpblade hangs around the caravan.

“He’s probably waiting to see if he can drive off with it,” remarks Jojo.

The elf wanders around the woods, making sure that she does not lose track of her way back to the caravan. “These woods are quite large. You’re not exactly sure where to start, so you wander around the trees, keeping a sharp look out for anything strange or dangerous.”

Meanwhile, Sharpblade is back at the caravan, rummaging through its contents. “Did you say that there were metal things in here? Didn’t I throw something metal at that Earth Elemental?”

“Uh, metal cooking pots?” I offer.

“Hmm..” he says before continuing with his rummaging.

I have no idea what he has in mind, so I decide to distract him. “Remember I said that this farm is abandoned? Well, there’s an old, deserted farm house here, next to the fields of overgrown weeds.”

Old Abandoned Farm house
He looks up. “A farm house? Why didn’t you say so?” Sharpblade strolls up the deserted farm house.

“There’s a front porch, and the front door is all boarded up.”

“Smash it with my war hammer.”

It takes only two blows to completely decimate the door and the skeleton steps into the house. “It’s dark in here; the windows have been all boarded up too. Aside from the wooden bits and junk on the floor, you don’t see anything of interest. There’s another door here on the side, probably leading to a side-room.”

Evan hesitates a bit, and then decides to forgo opening this door and goes back to the caravan to resume his rummaging.  I suppose he wants to wait for Lexi to get back before exploring on.

Jojo is still in the woods searching. “After several hours, you don’t meet anyone. The sky is getting dark, so you decide to head back to the caravan, when suddenly, there is a rustle in the bushes in front of you! Something’s heading your way!”

Jojo decides to stand firm, throwing dagger at ready. “Out of the bushes in front of you burst out… a wolf! It stares at you with a panting snarl!”

“Does it have red eyes?” asks Evan intently.

“Well, I suppose if it was dark, it might be red.”

“Uh oh.” Lexi throws the dagger and it misses the wolf as it lunges… right past the startled elf and into the bushes behind her! “The wolf soon bounds off, and then you hear more rustling from the bushes in front of you!”

By now, the kids have figured out that something is chasing the wolf, but Jojo decides to stand firm again, this time with her rapier out. “Crashing out of the bushes, you see… two goblins! They are holding a net between them. They see you and shriek angrily and one of them charges towards you with its short sword! The other notches an arrow in its short bow!”

A nasty Goblin!
The fight is short, but furious. Lexi dodges the wild swings from the sword-wielding goblin before impaling it with her rapier. Meanwhile, the other goblin proves to be an excellent shot at hitting the sky. It grunts irritably as it bends to retrieve its arrow for the second time.

“I ignore that goblin and run after the wolf! I want to see where it lives!” The elf turns and runs after where the wolf went.

“You run into the bushes, and you can glimpse the wolf bounding away in the distance. But soon, you lose sight of it.” There is no sign of that other goblin either. Jojo is disappointed, but makes her way back to the caravan.

By the time she gets back, night had fallen. Gaffi has set up a campfire next to the caravan, and soon they are all sitting next to the fire eating dinner (except for Sharpblade, of course). Gaffi listens to Jojo’s run-in with the goblins and shakes his head, “Odd. Goblins usually stay closer to the mountains to the east and tend not to stray this far.”

Just then, Bilbi points at the farm house. “Hey! I think I see a light in there!”

Sure enough, in the darkness, they can all see a faint blue glow coming from the side-room window of the farm house. Both Lexi and Sharpblade walk up to the farm house to investigate and enter through the front doorway which Sharpblade had smashed earlier.

“You see a faint blue glow coming from under the door that leads to the side-room.”

“Smash it!”

“You sure, Ev? You don’t want to carefully check the door first?”

“Nope, smash it!”

Sharpblade smashes open the door with his warhammer and the two adventurers stride into the room.

“You see what looks like a blue glowing oval shape hovering above the floor like this.” I motion with my hands. “There is a thrum of magic in the air!”

“Oh, it’s just a portal,” says Evan dismissively. “Jump into it.”

“Hmm.. you really sure?” I was impressed how reckless Evan seemed tonight. And he was dead right about it being a portal too.

“Yeah,” cautions Jojo. “It could be a wisp or something.”

“No, it’s a portal,” insists Evan. Sharpblade takes a running leap towards the blue oval portal and smashes into an invisible barrier in front of it. He crashes on his back, and there is a blue flash as an image of a rune highlights itself over the portal. The rune image gradually fades away.

“That was cool!” the kids exclaim. “Do it again!”

The adventurers repeatedly bounce themselves off the invisible barrier surrounding the blue portal like some kind of vertical trampoline. Eventually, I tell them. “Just then, a cloud covers the moon outside, and the portal disappears. But by now, you’ve memorised this rune and you make your way back to the caravan.”

The kids ask Gaffi if he knows what the rune is, but he just shakes his head. “Don’t know much about runes and the like. But I do know that long ago, these lands were ruled by powerful wizard warriors who called themselves Runelords. This might be one of their runes.”

Jojo shakes her head. “Runelords? Warrior wizards? Why can’t you tell us this stuff beforehand?”

The rest of the night passes uneventfully, and the next day, the two adventurers are back in the forest searching for any trace of the mysterious animal-conversing person, or goblins.

“After some time, you both catch the smell of something really bad in the air. Like someone cooking dirty socks or something. It’s coming from a clearing up ahead.” The two adventurers cautiously approach the clearing and see a group of five goblins sitting around a cook-fire. There are nets on the ground next to them. I sketch out the layout of the clearing and pin-point the location of Lexi and Sharpblade with a triangle and a square.

“Oooo! Can I be the triangle!? I want to be the triangle!” pleads Evan.

“Uh. Yeah, sure, you can be the triangle.”

Goblin campfire. Just what are they cooking!?
“Listen in to see if we can find out more about them,” suggests Jojo.

I explain that goblin tongue is not easy to make out, full of grunts and snarls, but they manage to recognise a few phrases. “You work out that their leader’s name is Hork, and he rides a large wolf. You also hear that he wants to marry a White Lady.”

“Hmm… a White Lady.” murmurs Jojo thoughtfully.

“Make a perception roll!” I order. The kids both roll abysmal numbers 2 and 3. “You are both so intent on listening in to the goblins that you do not notice a rustle in the bushes behind you until a goblin scout steps out of them! You both stare at each other in surprise before the goblin yells, ‘Intrudah!!! Intrudah!!!’”

The goblins in the clearing grab their weapons and rush towards the noise. The goblin scout attacks Lexi but clumsily stabs a tree with its short sword. Sharpblade draws his axe and bursts into the clearing to attack the advancing goblins. The fight takes several rounds, and Lexi manages to dispatch the goblin scout with her rapier. Sharpblade, however, has a streak of really bad luck with missed attacks and the goblins getting through his tough armour and scoring a couple of critcal hits to boot. Although he manages to dispatch one of them, in the end, he collapses due to the sheer number of goblins bearing him down.

“Sharpblade collapses and about three goblins pounce on top of him! One of them tries to pull his skull off with its hands!”

Daaaad! Am I dead?”

“Not yet, but you’re out of the fight.”

Lexi’s rapier is a blurry flash as she fights off two goblins at once and manages to bring them down one after the other. When the other three goblins crawling over Sharpblade see her finish off their fellow goblins, they immediately rush to attack her. With a series of well executed attacks, the elf dispatches two of the goblins in as many rounds, and points her blade menacingly at the last one who looks increasingly terrified by the rapier-wielding rogue.

“Tell me what you goblins are doing here in this forest!” she demands angrily.

The goblin blubbers. “We outcasts from Black Fang! We here catch wolves! To ride! Like our great leader Hork!”

“Oh! Black Fang!” says Evan. He points at the campaign map. “From this place here called Black Fang’s Dungeon!”

“What are you going to do with the goblin?” I ask curiously.

Jojo shrugs. “He’s small, right? I’ll carry him back to the caravan.” As Lexi bends to pick up the goblin, the nasty creature shrieks and bites her arm.

As the enraged elf wrestles the creature off, I exclaim, “You suddenly see a few creatures appear from out of the bushes! It’s more of those wolves! The goblin sees the wolves and shrieks in fear and jumps off to run into the opposite direction. The wolves bound past you both to give chase.”

“Just great!” says Jojo. “Now we’ll have to chase them again!”

Sharpblade gets up but just before they start to leave, a voice calls out from the trees. “Ho there, strangers!” A bearded man dressed in patched-up clothes steps into the clearing.

The adventurers introduce themselves to the newcomer. “And we’re looking for a man who can talk to animals.” finishes Jojo.

The bearded man considers this, and then laughs. “Well, I’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you’ve probably found who you’re looking for. My name is Egan and these are my woods. And I’m most likely the person who people are talking about. The bad news though, is that I don’t really talk to animals. I’m friends with the wolves, and they respect me just as I respect them. But we don’t really.. talk.”

Jojo looks disappointed even when Egan invites them back to his dwelling to rest. After a short walk, they arrive at a large tree stump. “When this was a living tree, the tree must have been simply enormous! Now all that’s left is the base of its trunk which is about 30 feet wide. It has been hollowed out and covered to make Egan’s home.” They enter the dwelling and find it modestly outfitted. Egan starts preparing a meal for them and talks to them about the recent goblin incursion in the woods. “They started turning up some weeks back, and they’ve been trying to catch wolves since!”

The adventurers tell Egan what they have learnt about the goblins. “And we heard that their leader Hork wants to marry a White Lady.”

Egan thinks a bit. “Hmm.. a White Lady. Perhaps it has something to do with that ruined temple in these woods.” He explains that there is an old ruined temple here that has a white statue of a lady. The adventurers agree to investigate it after their rest.

So later on, the adventurers find themselves following Egan’s directions towards where the ruined temple ought to be. “You both walk for about a couple of hours through the woods, and soon come to what seems to be an old marble road! But it’s really cracked and ruined, with roots and grass growing through it.”

Evan attempts to pry some of the marble off the road, but it is so brittle that it breaks to bits. They both follow the road and eventually come to a building partly hidden in the trees.

Mysterious ruined temple
“This must be the ruined temple Egan told you about. It’s basically a raised marble platform with columns all around. Vines and grass have grown all over it, and half the roof has caved in.” The two adventurers walk up to the temple. “There seems to be nobody here. But just as you approach the main entrance of the temple, there is a thrum of magic in the air, and suddenly, a beautiful lady appears in front of you!”

“Um. Is she white-looking?” queries Jojo.

“Why, yes. She is wearing a white gown, and has pale skin. She is extremely beautiful and tall and graceful with blonde hair. However, she also has a haughty look that gives her a prideful appearance. Sort of like an evil Delta Goodrem.”

Jojo considers this. “I think Kylie Minogue is prettier.”

Delta or Kylie. You decide.
The White Lady raises her hands slightly in welcome. “Greetings mortals. Welcome to the temple of the Great Xanderghul, the Runelord of Pride. Pilgrims such as yourselves should give praise to the Great Xanderghul, and the mighty runelord might bestow a reward to you.” She seems to wait for a response.

Jojo clears her throat. “Uh, hi, we’re here to find out why the goblin leader wants to marry you.”

“The White Lady does not respond,” I say. “She just stands there, as if waiting.”

“Well, I’m smashing her with my warhammer!” declares Evan. Sharpblade steps forward to deliver a mighty blow to the White Lady. His warhammer goes right through the Lady as if she was not there and smashes the floor. The Lady shimmers a bit, and then disappears.

“Just great!” says Jojo exasperatedly. The two adventurers search the small ruined temple, but find nothing of interest nor any trace of the White Lady.

“You guys finish searching the temple when you both hear the sounds of a group approaching the temple along the marble road!” Sharpblade immediately hides behind one of the pillars while Lexi springs out into the trees to hide in the shadows. From the road, a group of six goblins turn up. “One of them is a largish-looking goblin riding a wolf! This must be Hork, the goblin boss. The goblins grumble amongst themselves until Hork dismounts and clouts one of them behind the head.”

Hork the Goblin Boss!
Hork makes his way to the front of the temple and immediately, the White Lady appears. She raises her hands in welcome. “Greetings mortals. Welcome to the temple of the Great Xanderghul, the Runelord of Pride. Pilgrims such as yourselves should give praise to the Great Xanderghul, and the mighty runelord might bestow a reward to you.”

Hork gets down on one knee and calls out, “Beautiful White Lady! Lady more beautiful than.. than.. flower! Why you no marry Hork? Hork kill anyone who harm White Lady!” He goes on for a bit, but the White Lady makes no response. Eventually, she shimmers and disappears. One of the goblins scratches his head and says, “Maybe she no like your smell, Hork.” which immediately earns him a pummeling from the goblin boss.

After some discussion, the kids both figure it out. “The White Lady is a hologram! And Hork thinks she’s real!”

“In a fantasy world, holograms are called illusions,” I correct them. “And yes, I don’t think Hork realises that she’s not real.” I frown. “Uh oh. You remember Hork’s wolf? You spot it sniffing the air suspiciously, and it starts coming towards where Lexi is hiding!”

“Does it have red eyes?” asks Evan.

“Oh yes,” I supply. “Definitely.”

Fight at the ruined temple
Jojo thinks a bit. “Okay, um. I’m going to try to befriend the wolf.”

I look at her. “I must warn you, this is an extremely dangerous wolf that’s been trained by Hork to be his mount. I don’t know if you can befriend it, Jo.”

“Well, at least give me one try.”

I sigh. “Roll then.” Jojo rolls and comes up with a 6. “I don’t think that’s enough to befriend anything, let alone a savage wolf! Hork’s wolf spots you, and immediately starts snarling at you! The rest of the goblins draw their weapons!”

Sharpblade lunges out from his hiding place and hurls his axe at a surprised Hork. Unfortunately, the axe just misses and flies off into the trees. The skeleton draws his warhammer and goes head-to-head with the goblin boss. “Hork is using a longsword which is way too big for him. He swings it clumsily but powerfully, and his blow glances off your armour!” Another two goblins fire off arrows from their shortbows which ping off the skeleton’s tough armour.

Lexi slashes her rapier at Hork’s wolf and scores a hit on its snout. Enraged, the wolf lunges at her. I roll a natural 20 for the wolf. “A critical hit! Hork’s wolf mauls into you, and you collapse under the beast!”

Aaagh, brought down by my own weakness for animals!” laments Jojo.

Sharpblade fends off more attacks by Hork and manages to score a few minor hits. However, by now, the rest of the goblins are coming up to surround the skeleton. “It looks like they are all going to surround and attack you! Just before they do, a piercing wolf howl breaks the air!”

Out from the trees, wolves race out and attack the remaining goblins! One of them is particularly large and can stand on two hind legs. “Is that Egan?” guesses Jojo.

“Well, it’s a wolf that is standing like a man and it looks like this.” I show them the picture from the DM guide.

Egan the Werewolf?
“Oh, it’s a werewolf,” reads Jojo from the title. “Why didn’t you just say it’s a werewolf?”

If it is Egan, he was hardly recognisable now, having turned into a werewolf. The werewolf and Hork’s wolf tear into each other in a brutal fight.

In the midst of it all, the illusion of the White Lady appears again with her greeting to pilgrims. No one pays it any attention as wolves and goblins fight, sometimes stumbling right through her. Sharpblade and Hork exchange blows until Evan finally rolls a natural 20. “A critical hit! Isn’t it, dad? I rolled a critical hit!”

“You sure did.” I hand him a d8. “With the warhammer, that means that you roll this 3 times and add it all up for damage.” Evan does his three rolls, with both kids adding up the damage as he goes along.

“You land a spectacular smashing hit on Hork. The goblin boss flies up into the air and crashes into the half-broken ceiling of the temple before falling to the ground! The rest of the ceiling tumbles and crashes on top of the goblin boss. I think he’s very dead now.”

With their leader gone, the rest of the goblins fall into disarray and the wolves dispatch them with no problems. Lexi gets up, all bloodied from her mauling, and watches as Egan the werewolf tears into Hork’s wolf and kills it. The werewolf stares at her with blood-crazy eyes and then bounds off into the forest, the rest of the wolves following close behind.

Adventure Notes:

We played this adventure on-and-off over about three mini-sessions. I admit being over-confident that the kids could deal with hordes of goblins given Sharpblade’s high AC, but as the fight in the clearing shows, it all really depends on the luck of the die. I've no idea why so many critical hits were rolled this adventure, but anyway, now both kids are more aware of what critical hits are and can do.

I was more careful with the final encounter, and even then Lexi went down when the wolf mauled her to bits with a single critical bite. The rescue by the Egan and the wolves, of course, was planned, but at least Evan managed to redeem himself in his fight with Hork.

This time round, I borrowed some adventure material from the free Pathfinder adventure downloads from the piazo site. I rather liked the idea of a goblin boss being smitten by an illusionary recording!

By now, both kids have earned enough XPs to level up, so in the next session, I’ll detail how the kids leveled up their characters to Level 2, with some interesting choices for Jojo’s character.

Plot hooks from this session: Fastidus waiting for some people to turn up at the Rusty Dragon. A hovering portal in an abandoned farmhouse protected by a rune shield. Egan the werewolf. And the first mention of the Runelords and Black Fang.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Episode 6 - Parsely

We've been playing a few RPGs recently, and Parsely is a simple RPG party game that we learnt that is perfect for young kids. In this episode of Games We Play, we take a journey through "The Enchanted Forest Adventure" which KK wrote just for this episode.

Download the Enchanted Forest Adventure, google around for more Parsely adventures, or just make one up on your own and have a great time playing Parsely!

Enchanted Forest Adventure PDF