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.

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