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.

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